CUPE to call for general strike action in Ontario: sources

By Cormac Mac Sweeney and Lucas Casaletto

There is likely a significant escalation on the horizon in the labour showdown between the province and education workers.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the union representing approximately 55,000 education workers, is set to hold a news conference at 11 a.m. on Monday, along with the Canadian Labour Congress, the Ontario Federation of Labour, and leaders of other private and public sector unions to discuss the growing fightback against the Ford government’s Bill 28.

Two separate union sources confirm to CityNews that at this news conference, there will be a call for a general strike in Ontario beginning in a week, on Nov. 14. Sources say multiple unions are on board, and there will be escalating job action in the lead-up to a possible general strike.

A general strike would see several participants ceasing their economic activity in Ontario to bolster the bargaining position of a trade union to reach a common social or political purpose.

Premier Doug Ford said Monday morning his government would be willing to repeal its back-to-work legislation and stop the use of the notwithstanding clause if the union agrees to call off their ongoing job action.

RELATED: What Ontario schools are doing as of Monday

CUPE Ontario announced a “political protest” would be held outside Queen’s Park on Monday morning against Bill 28.

“Bill 28 undermines our most foundational rights and freedoms, forces a terrible contract on education workers, violates workers’ constitutional right to bargain fairly, and pre-emptively deems a strike illegal instead of continuing with negotiations,” CUPE Ontario said in a statement on Sunday.

“If they can strip away education workers’ Charter-protected right to strike, they can do the same to any other worker.”

CUPE Ontario’s President, Fred Hahn, recently hinted at the possibility of a general strike involving other unions during a protest in Toronto.

“We will keep moving. We will keep building. Because we know when we stand together, and when we fight together, we will win together,” Hahn said.

This development comes as the province’s labour board determines whether CUPE’s ongoing work stoppage is breaking the law.

CUPE maintains job action is a form of legitimate political protest in response to the historic bill passed on Thursday that imposes a contract on them by overriding certain charter rights.

The strike closed numerous schools across the province Friday, with even more set to shut on Monday should the work stoppage continue.

It appears the general public is on the side of the workers in this contract dispute, with a recent poll from Abacus Data showing six in 10 blame the government for schools being closed, and 71 per cent want the province to negotiate a fair deal with the education workers rather than continue with its current approach.

Half of those asked also think it was a bad idea for the government to use the notwithstanding clause, while only 36 per cent think it’s a good idea.

With files from The Canadian Press 

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