CAW Disgusted by Attack on Collective Bargaining in Ontario Education Sector

September 6, 2012, 1:33 PM EST

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The CAW is expressing outrage at the Ontario government for its blatant legislative interference and disrespect for the fundamental right to free collective bargaining in the broader public sector. 

"This intrusion by the provincial government to dictate the terms of settlement between school boards and teacher associations or unions is simply beyond the pale," said CAW National President Ken Lewenza.

Lewenza was sharply critical of the attack on fundamental democratic rights - comparing the Ontario government's actions to those of the federal Harper government in its own attack on collective bargaining rights with unprecedented interventions at Air Canada, Canada Post and CP Rail. 

Without any actual or threatened work stoppage in the education sector, Bill 115, "the Putting Students First Act" legislation denies education workers and teachers the right to free collective bargaining with local school boards on the terms of their compensation and conditions of work.

"We express our solidarity and support to the tens of thousands of education workers in their determination to preserve their right to collective bargaining, and reject the Ontario government's attempt to create an unnecessary crisis in Ontario's education system.  The right of public sector workers and their employers to engage in so fundamental a process as collective bargaining cannot be restricted to only 'good' economic times."

Earlier in July this year, negotiations between CAW and long-term care provider Extendicare ended abruptly after the Ontario government issued a dictate that all broader public sector employers (including for-profit firms) must ensure compensation freezes in renewal collective agreements.

"School board workers, much like long-term care workers, are predominantly women and work long hours, doing strenuous work, taking care of our children or elderly loved ones," said Lewenza.  "It is simply deplorable that the provincial government would devalue this important caring work to such a degree." 

Lewenza also praised the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) for courageously stepping forward to warn the McGuinty government to not pass Bill 115, and offering to be part of any potential constitutional court challenge against the bill if it should become law, including requesting intervener status allowing it to present its case against the bill in court. "This is both an important issue for local democracy as well as civil liberties - workers in both the public and private sector must stand together in defence of these rights" said Lewenza.

The CAW represents 145,000 workers in Ontario including 26,000 public sector workers in health, education, municipal utilities and the urban transit sector.  The CAW represents education support workers at several school boards including Avon Maitland; Thunder Bay and Windsor Essex Catholic District where the province recently assumed control over the local school board. 

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