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Back-to-work legislation an 'outrageous assault' on workers, union says


Ontario teachers’ unions are speaking out after the Progressive Conservative government decided to use the notwithstanding clause to force a contract onto education support workers.

The bill, dubbed the “Keeping Students in Class Act,” forces a four-year contract onto certain Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) employees and makes it illegal for those 55,000 members to strike.

Taking any form of job action would result in steep fines.

Shortly after the legislation was tabled, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) released a statement saying it “undermines the free and fair collective bargaining process.”

“On this of all days, ETFO could not, in good conscience, sit across the table from the government, and so we ended negotiations for the day,” ETFO president Karen Brown said. “Today, the Ford government has signalled it is uninterested in reaching collective agreements that are negotiated freely and fairly. And its oppressive use of the notwithstanding clause is another flagrant abuse of power—one that continues to attack democracy by trampling on Ontarians’ constitutional rights.”

“This is a move by the Ford government to curb the ability of education workers in this province to effectively advocate for much-needed improvements in public education. It is not only an outrageous assault on our CUPE colleagues, but also a blow to the morale of all education workers in this province.”

The province is currently in bargaining with multiple teachers’ unions, including the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF).

Karen Littlewood, President of OSSTF, called the government’s use of back-to-work legislation “heavy-handed.”

“We continue to call on the Ford government to work within a fair process that respects and upholds all workers’ Charter rights, and to invest in public education and negotiate a fair deal that meets the needs of frontline education workers, students, and their families,” she said.

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) went even further, saying the legislation tramples on workers’ constitutional rights. In a statement issued Monday afternoon, the union said the use of the notwithstanding clause “tramples” on workers’ rights.

They added that while it is “shameful”, it is not unexpected.

“This is a government with a long history of repeatedly and deliberately neglecting students, families, education workers, and teachers, turning its back on all Ontarians,” OECTA President Barb Dobrowolski said.

“The Ford government’s decision to legislatively impose a contract on OSBCU education workers, and to invoke the notwithstanding clause for the second time in Ontario’s history, is another flagrant abuse of power.”

Opposition parties spent Monday afternoon describing the PC government’s action as a form of “bullying.”

The government, meanwhile, claims the legislation was necessary to prevent a strike that would impact students.

As part of the legislation, education support workers have been mandated into a four-year contract with a 2.5 per cent salary increase for employees making less than $43,000 a year and a 1.5 per cent increase for all other employees.

CUPE has long argued that because Bill 124, legislation that capped salary increases for public sector workers at one per cent, has been in place for the last three years that increase isn’t enough. Top Stories

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