Photo by: Charlie Martin
Last week, the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 4156 announced the ratification of a new agreement. The deal between the school board and the Local is set to remain in place until 2026.
CUPE, also recognized as Canada’s largest union, represents workers in healthcare, emergency services, education, early learning and childcare, municipalities, social services, libraries, utilities, transportation, airlines and more. The union has over 715,000 members across the country.
In Niagara, Local 4156 represents roughly 2,000 DSBN staff members.
The newly ratified deal will consist of several updates, such as increases to educational allowances for staff training, changes reflecting gender neutrality, updates to compassionate leave language and more.
The deal will also include the incorporation of Indigenous leave language, meaning that Indigenous staff’s right to leave to attend cultural events will now be a part of the collective agreement. These workers will be given up to five days of leave.
The ratified agreement will also be implementing an afternoon maintenance shift to support rental agreements with outside community partners. A central designated early childhood educator has also been included in the agreement, meaning help will be more easily accessible if an early childhood educator is sick.
Local 4156 president Keith Levere noted that the bargaining process for the ratification was a relatively quick and fair agreement, with several gains for union members.
The main issues dealt with during the bargain, such as compensation, allowed for local unions to be given the tools and resources to focus specifically on issues pertaining to its Niagara membership.
One issue in particular was the reimbursement for the purchase of required items, such as work boots for maintenance workers. Although local unions are typically not supposed to discuss reimbursements, exceptions were made during this agreement.
The ratification between DSBN and CUPE follows the over 55,000 CUPE workers who walked out on strike in Nov. 2022 against the passing of Bill 28, otherwise known as the Keeping Students in Class Act. The bill, amongst other changes, issued the right to fine striking workers $4,000 a day.
The event led to a two-day provincewide protest with a tentative agreement being reached the weekend following the strike. Although the November deal reportedly left much to be desired, it was the best option at the time for the 55,000 education workers.