Since the summer, members of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OSBCU) have been in bargaining with the provincial government. The union, which belongs to 55,000 workers at primary and secondary schools and school boards across Ontario, has been fighting for a collective agreement that delivers some semblance of economic justice for severely underpaid educational workers, many of whom earn just $39,000 a year.
The union is also fighting for a collective agreement that ensures safer, healthier, and more effective public schools by committing the government to hire more educational workers, adequately staff school libraries, guarantee healthier cleaning standards, and tackle maintenance backlogs. To back these demands, OSBCU members voted 96.5% in favour of strike action.
Rather than bargain in good faith with these essential workers, many of whom have made profound sacrifices to keep our schools running throughout the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the Ford Government has tabled legislation to override their constitutionally protected right to strike and impose a four-year collective agreement. By invoking the “Notwithstanding Clause” the government is also attempting to shield its legislation from judicial review, because it knows what it’s doing is otherwise unconstitutional.
This legislation is an assault not just on the OSBCU members who are seeing their constitutional rights trampled, but on every single worker in the province. The right to come together in a union and bargain collectively is meaningless without the right to back your bargaining with a strike. The entire labour movement must come together in opposition. The right to strike wasn’t won in the courts, it was won on the picket lines. We must defend it there as well.
OSBCU has already announced that some form of job action will happen as scheduled on Friday, November 4th, whether or not there is legislation that purports to ban it. When this happens, CUPE 3906 members will be there in support, and we will continue to stand in solidarity with education workers and anyone else who stands up for workers’ rights, for better schools, and for a better world for all of us.
The CUPE 3906 Executive Committee