The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has called off a proposed strike action that would have pulled custodial staff, secretaries, EAs and other educational employees out of Ontario schools.

The news came Nov. 7 after premier Doug Ford promised to repeal Bill 28, legislation that imposed a contract on around 55,000 workers province-wide and banned them from striking, vowing to return to the negotiating table.

CUPE had previously given formal notice to the Ontario government that it intended to strike if a new contract isn’t agreed. Thousands of school workers picketed outside Queen’s Park and MPP offices across the province Nov. 4, forcing many districts to close schools. Trillium Lakelands District School Board said it could not safely operate without CUPE employees, closing all its schools, including in Haliburton County.

Negotiations between the province and CUPE have been ongoing for several months. The union is looking for annual salary increases of 11.7 per cent, while the government has so far offered raises of two per cent annually for workers making less than $40,000 and 1.25 per cent for all others.

Local CUPE 997 president William Campbell said he was encouraged by the Ford government’s U-turn Monday.

“It is a positive step forward for all education workers, students and citizens of Ontario,” Campbell said. “It is my hope that an agreement can be reached that respects the value of the work education workers do, to support students, and the workers who do that work.”

Campbell said CUPE had also tabled proposals to secure additional funding for school boards that could be used to hire additional staff to provide necessary supports to students.

Should negotiations falter, CUPE workers could still go on strike. Laura Walton, president of the CUPE Ontario School Board Council of Unions, told CBC Nov. 7 that a five-day notice would need to be served to the province

A date has not yet been set for the return to the bargaining table.