55,000 workers force right-wing Ontario premier to back Ford anti-strike law – People’s World | Rare Techy
Ontario’s right-wing Conservative Premier Doug Ford backed away from pushing a tough anti-jobs law amid fierce opposition from 55,000 workers. | Photos: Ford photo from AP / Rally photo from CUPE Ontario
TORONTO (PAI) – A forced strike by 55,000 educators in Ontario, members of the Ontario branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, forced right-wing Conservative provincial Premier Doug Ford to withdraw his new law that imposed a tough deal on them. His Bill 28 included a small increase, a ban on strikes and more privatization of these jobs.
Three days after CUPE workers were forced to walk out, Ford promised in a televised news conference at 11 a.m. on Nov. 7 to withdraw the measure if the union makes a similar “good faith effort” to return to negotiations.
The union immediately agreed, saying the strike would end on the morning of November 8. However, Ford must reconvene the provincial parliament to repeal Bill 28.
CUPE leaders began shutting down protest sites at their press conference on November 8. They acted after Ford put its commitment in writing.
Stephen Lecce, Ford’s education minister, said the right-wing regime would repeal Bill 28 “in its entirety.” This includes repealing the clause limiting court and legislative challenges, barring intervention by the Canadian federal government.
The challenge ban so alarmed Amalgamated Transit Union president John Costa and Canadian ATU president John De Nino that they wrote to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, urging him to invoke a rarely used constitutional provision that overrides such provincial laws.
Costa and De Nino said Bill 28 could hurt all Canadian workers, not just the 55,000 CUPE members or the 2,200 members of their own ATU Local 1587 in Toronto. These workers were forced to strike by their bosses at Metrolinx at 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 7 after seven months of fruitless negotiations over safety and outsourcing issues.
After agreeing to end the forced strike, Laura Walton, president of the Ontario affiliate of CUPE, which represents educators, added that she hopes school principals will now come to the bargaining table in good faith. However, if the talks break down again, according to him, the workers, 70% of whom are women, will be forced to walk again.
Still, CUPE called Ford’s reversal a victory for all Canadians, not just union members. CUPE national president Mark Hancock said his Ontario members took on Ford’s right-wing government and the government blinked.
Bill 28 “is a call to arms to union members, workers and everyone who believes in charter rights across Canada,” Hancock said, referring to Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is similar but more expansive than the U.S. bill. Rights. CUPE secretary-treasurer Candace Rennick called Bill 28 “the worst piece of legislation we’ve ever seen directed at the labor movement.”
“This isn’t just about educators, it’s about the rights of all working people across the country,” Hancock added in an earlier statement after a briefing by local union leaders in Ontario.
Ford said his government initially offered CUPE pay rises of 2% a year for workers earning less than $40,000 and 1.25% for others. Bill 28’s four-year proposal would give workers making less than $43,000 2.5% a year and the rest 1.5%, workers said.
CUPE responded by hourly pay and pay scales that most lower paid workers would also receive 1.5%. The union first requested an 11.7% annual increase, but cut that proposal in half.
Meanwhile, 2,200 members of Toronto-based Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1587 were also forced to strike after Metrolinx, the transit agency in Canada’s largest city, abruptly refused to work for seven months over two key local issues: safety and outsourcing. Transit workers rejected the agency’s contract offer by a 91%-9% margin while authorizing a strike.
“Metrolinx negotiators failed to come to the table with a reasonable offer to resolve our key issues,” ATU Local 1587 President Rob Cormier told the international union.
“Defense contracting is essential to ensure that experienced personnel operate GO Transit safely and efficiently. Without their protection, Metrolinx could contract with outside companies to hire inexperienced workers for precarious non-union positions. We’ve been negotiating in good faith for more than seven months with the goal of avoiding a transit shutdown, but I can’t say the same for the Metrolinx negotiators
“Even in these last hours, the company did not offer any serious proposals on our priority issues. We only go on strike as a last resort, but the company’s stonewalling tactics have left us with no choice.
The two strikes in Ontario were significant for several reasons. One is that Canada’s labor law is more pro-union than the US, although provincial labor laws differ, with Ontario being one of the most progressive. Ford wanted to change that. His action is particularly important because Ontario is by far Canada’s most populous province, with 14.224 million people, 38% of the total 37 million Canadians.
Ford’s proposed repeal of Ontario’s labor law, in turn, prompted ATU President Costa and ATU Canada President De Nino to write to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking him to appeal to the federal constitution to stop Ford’s bill from being passed on April 28.
“Ford’s cynical and cavalier move “isn’t just an attack by the powerful on hard-working school staff. It’s an attack on all Charter rights, the right to judicial review and Canadian norms of fairness and democracy,” two union presidents told Trudeau. “If Doug Ford is unwilling to protect these rights, the Canadian government has no choice but to do so.”