CUPE, Unifor calling Ford’s reversal on Bill 28 a “massive victory” for labour rights
Published November 8, 2022 at 9:53 am
Canada’s labour movement is calling it a “massive victory for workers,” saying CUPE’s education workers took on the government “and the government blinked.”
CUPE and its 55,000 education workers know there’s more work to be done – a contract still has to be hammered out – but they also get to celebrate the defeat of Premier Doug Ford’s “draconian anti-worker legislation” Bill 28, a bill most observers agree would strip the workers of fundamental Charter rights.
Local school boards, meanwhile, are just happy the students will be back in class today as schools return to “normal” operations.
In the end the walkout – deemed illegal under Bill 28 which, thanks to the notwithstanding clause, would have forced the education workers to accept the contract as offered and made labour disruptions against the law – lasted just two school days.
Ford, faced with the prospect of escalating province-wide labour action this week, broke Monday morning and committed to repealing the bill and getting back to the bargaining table.
In Toronto, flanked by dozens of labour leaders representing millions of Canadian workers, CUPE’s National President Mark Hancock credited the victory to the power of worker solidarity across public and private sectors, but especially the courage and determination of education workers.
“CUPE’s frontline education workers, 70 per cent of whom are women, stood firm. They took on the Ford government. And the government blinked,” said Hancock. “We’ve shown that when our rights are under attack, our movement is strong – and we will stand up for each other.”
Laura Walton, president of the Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OSBCU), which represents the CUPE education workers in Ontario, agreed. “The work of our members is what repealed this bill. This is unprecedented,” she said. “The organization of the members moved the government to this place, and the mobilization of our members will ensure that a real deal is achieved at the table.”
Unifor members joined CUPE on the picket lines and at Monday’s press conference. “The Conservative Government’s Bill 28 took a sledgehammer to the rights of CUPE education workers and all workers. They and all workers said no. This is an important step for the Premier to take to revoke this unprecedented attack on labour rights,” said Lana Payne, Unifor National President. “Now, CUPE education workers need a fair collective agreement, and Unifor will be with these workers until they win.”
The power of the people, said Unifor Ontario Director Naureen Rizvi. “This draconian law was written as a warning to all workers in the province, and all workers responded. Stephen Lecce and Doug Ford started this fight with CUPE education workers but their nasty tactics and complete erosion of labour law meant that instead of just targeting Ontario’s lowest paid education workers, they faced off against Ontario’s entire labour movement.”
The most important development to Norah Marsh, Durham District School Board’s Director of Education, is the kids are back in class.
“The Government of Ontario has confirmed in writing to CUPE that they will be repealing Bill 28 and CUPE has publicly announced that they will be ending their labour action today and returning to work tomorrow, she said in a message to parents and students. “As a result, all DDSB schools will be open to in-person learning on Tuesday, November 8.”
Similar sentiments were expressed on the websites of the Durham District Catholic School Board and the two boards representing Clarington: Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board and the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland Clarington School Board.
Each board also had a message thanking families for the “patience and understanding” over the past week.
“It is our understanding that negotiations with CUPE will continue, and we are hopeful that an agreement can be reached,” added Marsh. “We will continue to provide families with updates should any relevant information come forward.”
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