The bill proposed by Ontario’s conservative government would fine school support staff C$4,000 (US$2,900) a day for striking, prompting concerns that the province is eroding fundamental workers’ rights.
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Doug Ford’s government tabled legislation this week that would unilaterally impose a contract on education workers and levy hefty fines for striking. The move escalates a bitter dispute over pay for education workers, including custodians, early childhood educators, and teaching assistants.
The Ontario Federation of Labour called the bill “draconian” and said it violates workers’ constitutional right to collectively bargain.
“This is an attack on working people,” said federation president Chris Buckley. “It’s an attack on their right to free association. It’s an attack on their right to bargain fairly and openly collectively.”
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association said the bill could have a “chilling effect” on workers’ bargaining ability.
“Fining people for exercising their constitutional rights is not something any government should be doing,” said CCLA executive director Michael Bryant.
Buckley said the federation is considering legal action if the bill becomes law.
“This government is playing with fire,” he said. “They’re opening up a can of worms that they may be unable to control.”
The bill has yet to be passed into law, but if it is, Ontario will become the only province in Canada to impose such severe penalties on striking workers.
According to the Canadian Press, the government has said the bill is necessary to end rotating strikes by education workers that have disrupted classes for more than two million students.
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, one of the unions involved in the dispute, said the bill is an “abuse of power” and called on the government to return to the bargaining table.
“This legislation is a declaration of war on every worker in this province,” said federation president Harvey Bischof.
The union has vowed to fight the bill “tooth and nail.”
What do you think of this bill? Do you think it’s fair to workers, or is it an abuse of power? Let us know in the comments.
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