The Ontario government has passed legislation putting education support workers on a four year contract and making their planned strike illegal. Bill 28 is the Keeping Students in Class Act. It uses the notwithstanding clause to legislate a contract that makes it illegal to take any job action. It happened quick. It passed. Mediation fell apart with neither party reaching an agreement.
Workers can’t strike
The Education Minister Stephen Lecce’s representative spoke with the local news. “Once a bill has been granted royal assent, it becomes law and comes into force on that day, unless the act provides otherwise. It may provide that it comes into force on a day provided for in the act or on a day to be fixed by an order of the Governor in Council.”
The union’s bargaining committee spotted the intent. “This afternoon we were informed that mediation has concluded. It is clear that this government never intended to negotiate. The time and effort they have spent on Bill 28, which strips away education workers’ Charter Rights, should have been spent on a deal that would have respected workers and ensured the services that students desperately need are secured.”
Workers may be jailed
Supposedly there was a good faith effort but the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) isn’t budging on taking the threat of a strike off the table. Lecce said, “For the sake of Ontario’s two million students, to keep classrooms open, CUPE has left us with no choice but to pass the Keeping (Students) in Class Act.”
The Union has said that even with the strike being illegal, there will be a province wide strike. There will be large fines imposed for those breaking the law.
Workers will need help
Those fines are up to $4,000 for each individual and $500,000 for the unions that organize the strike. Lecce declared, “We will use every tool available to send a clear unambiguous message: schools should be open and there’s accountability for breaking the law.”
Candace Rennick is CUPE’s national secretary treasurer.
“We are giving our members clear instructions. If you are fined on the picket line, you report that fine to your president and you let the union know and we will provide you with further instructions. We are in the process of seeking legal support on that. If the government of Ontario wants to clog up the justice system with $4,000 per member per day fines, then I say bring it on.”