12/30/2012 02:27 EST | Updated 03/01/2013 05:12 EST

Ontario, School Support Workers Reach Tentative Deal


TORONTO - Ontario's education minister says the province has reached a tentative agreement with the union that represents school support workers.

Laurel Broten says the template deal with the Canadian Union of Public Employees came after an additional 30 hours of discussions — and in time to beat Monday's midnight deadline for agreements with teachers and support staff.

Broten has not said if she would move to impose deals on Jan. 1, only that she has the option to do it under Bill 115.

The legislation freezes the pay of most teachers, reduces their ability to bank sick days and limits their right to strike.

CUPE represents about 55,000 workers, including educational assistants, early childhood educators, instructors, custodians, librarians and secretaries.

CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn says the union remains opposed to Bill 115 and will continue its campaign to repeal it, which includes a legal challenge.

The union says its leaders will vote on the tentative deal Jan. 5 and if it's approved, a ratification vote will follow in the weeks afterwards.

Broten says the government is prepared to allow CUPE's union locals and their school boards another 14 days past Monday's deadline to allow time for the votes to take place.

The union representing public elementary teachers held a series of rotating one-day strikes earlier this month that affected every public school board in the province as part of its fight against the controversial legislation.

Broten has continued to urge the unions to use the final days of the year to keep trying to reach agreements with local school boards before the deadline.

"At this point, 65 ratified local agreements have been submitted. I am hopeful that those school boards, teachers and support staff who have yet to conclude and submit local agreements will do so," Broten said in a statement Sunday.

"This recent agreement demonstrates that it is possible to find solutions when we remain focused on putting students first."

She said she'll announce the government's next steps on Thursday.

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