The Government of Ontario has proposed legislation to prevent the province’s 55,000 Education Workers, represented by CUPE, from engaging in an otherwise lawful strike.
CUPE Education Workers are Early Childhood Educators, Educational Assistants who aid students with special needs, Librarians, and Custodial Staff. Despite the important work they perform, with an average wage of $39,000, they are at the bottom of the barrel in terms of wages in the education sector. Their wages over the past decade have not kept pace with inflation and they are now further behind where they were 10 years ago. Moreover, they are asking for increased staff levels that, while easing their work conditions, help students and parents because their working conditions are students’ learning conditions!
Rather than sending outstanding issues to binding arbitration as is usual with back-to-work legislation, this Bill would impose a contract upon these workers. And, in an unprecedented move, this Bill invokes the Charter’s controversial Notwithstanding clause. That clause permits governments to pass legislation ‘notwithstanding’ that it will violate Charter rights, and thus, to insulate themselves from the inevitable Charter challenges down the road. Most legal observers have decried its invocation here as an overreach, draconian, unsuited to the current situation, and as a ‘bully tactic’ that, if left unchecked, would provide governments ‘carte blanche’ to use it without the respect and restraint with which its invocation was initially envisioned.
The Executive Committee of BUFA joins the CAUT, OCUFA, and numerous other voices in decrying this unwarranted attack upon the statutory and constitutional rights of Education Workers and, by implication, workers at large.
CUPE has asserted that should this Bill pass, there will be a province-wide protest by Education Workers and their supporters this Friday. BUFA will make the membership aware of known locations at which members can join the workers in protest should they wish to do so.
Brock University Faculty Association
1812 Sir Isaac Brock Way, MC D402
St. Catharines, ON L2S 3A1