Labour and union leaders will meet on Wednesday to draft plans to challenge Premier Dalton McGuinty’s controversial Bill 115, which forces new contracts on Ontario teachers and educational support workers, and bans strikes and lockouts.
The bill passed on Sept. 11 with the support of the Conservatives.
Three major unions — the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), and CUPE — have vowed to fight the bill in court.
CUPE represents 55,000 school support workers in Ontario.
Bill 115 also stops the rollover of old contracts, reins in wages and cuts sick days for teachers and education workers.
The provincial government is facing a $15-billion deficit, and McGuinty has warned that in addition to Bill 115, wage freezes for Ontario’s broader public sector of about 1.3 million workers could be looming.
That warning has forced union and labour leaders to unite against what they deem the unconstitutional removal of workers’ right.
The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) will host Wednesday’s emergency meeting at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel. Representatives from OPSEU, CAW, CUPE, and other public and private sector unions will also attend.
“Premier McGuinty has openly mused about extending his draconian legislation to strip the democratic rights of all of the province’s 1.3 million public sector workers,” the OFL said in a release Tuesday.
“Collective bargaining rights have been instrumental in the creation of Canada’s middle class and improving conditions for all working families.”
OFL president Sid Ryan cited the recent deal between the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) Union and Ford and General Motors as an example of fair bargaining.
“The CAW went to the bargaining table with Ford and General Motors this month with their right to strike intact and the ability to bargain freely…This is the system that works and it is the fair process that workers deserve,” he said.
“Ontario’s workers have demonstrated a willingness to do their part in reaching fair settlements in today’s tough economy, but only when all parties are sharing the burden and only when their rights are respected.”
Ryan said the emergency meeting has nothing to do with wages, benefits or sick leave, but is about defending democracy and the constitutional rights of workers.