After more than a month on the picket lines, the union representing Halifax-area school support workers and the Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE) have reached a tentative agreement.

The news was announced late Wednesday afternoon.

“This agreement was made possible by the fierce determination of school support staff in HRM, whose strike action forced government and the HRCE back to the bargaining table,” CUPE Local 5047 President Chris Melanson said in a news release. 

“It is only because of CUPE members’ job action that there was any willingness from government to make improvements on the deal members rejected decisively in May.”

Melanson wrote that the agreement “offers one possible step towards the change we need to see in the education sector.”

No details of the agreement will be released to the public until school support workers have seen it and voted on it. 

“We know the last five weeks have been extremely difficult not only for school support workers, but also for parents and students in the Halifax region,” Melanson wrote. 

“We want to express our heartfelt thanks to our communities for their support and persistence throughout this challenging round of negotiations. Our members have been bolstered and encouraged by your kindness and extend their sincere gratitude to our supporters.”

Expecting voting results by Sunday

In an update to families on Wednesday, HRCE’s regional executive director Steve Gallagher said he was “pleased to share” the news that CUPE and HRCE had reached a tentative agreement.

Gallagher said the agreement was “unanimously endorsed” by CUPE’s executive team. He also advised families that HRCE expects to know the results of the CUPE vote by Sunday, June 18.

“If the members accept the agreement, all Pre-Primary children, and students who have not been able to safely attend school without EPAs at work, can return to school on Monday, June 19,” Gallagher wrote, highlighting the information in bold lettering.

He also told families an update would be provided “as soon as new information becomes available.”

About 1,800 HRCE school support workers – including educational program assistants, early childhood educators, and other support workers, including library support specialists – have been on strike since May 10. Hundreds of children with disabilities have been unable to attend school.

As reported here, the province offered school support workers a 6.5% raise over three years. While the province reached a tentative agreement with school support workers in the rest of the province, workers in HRM rejected the offer.

Yvette d’Entremont is a bilingual (English/French) journalist and editor who enjoys covering health, science, research, and education.

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