Dear QUFA Members,
The QUFA Executive extends a message of solidarity to education workers in Ontario, represented by CUPE-Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OSBCU), and condemns the Ontario government’s tabled back-to-work legislation and threats to invoke the notwithstanding clause to shield this legislation from constitutional and legal challenges.
The 55,000 OSBCU members include education assistants, school library workers, administrative assistants, custodians and tradespeople, early childhood educators, instructors, social workers, and more. These workers earn as little as $39,000 per year, and 51% must work another job to make ends meet. A full 70% are women. They are calling on the Ford government to hire more education workers to support all students, and to increase their wages. They have already passed through the three-year wage moderation period imposed by Bill 124 and now confront inflation at 8% per year.
Supporting these workers in the next days is important for everyone who counts on free and fair collective bargaining to negotiate terms of work and compensation. If the government is allowed to circumvent collective bargaining processes by legislating workers out of their right to strike (back-to-work legislation) and then preventing a legitimate legal charter challenge of that legislation by invoking the notwithstanding clause, none of us is protected by these laws.
Just to note that QUFA is part of a coalition challenging the Bill 124-Wage Restraint legislation at Superior Court as an infringement on our charter right to free association and collective negotiations. This labour coalition is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to ensure our rights to bargain are upheld, but if, at the end of it all, Ford’s government can sidestep the issue with the notwithstanding clause, our charter rights are effectively nullified.
The education workers’ union has indicated that they plan to hold pickets on Friday in defense of their, and indeed all workers’, Charter rights. It is likely that this will result in closures of elementary and secondary schools across the province. If you are a parent of young children and are impacted by this, you are encouraged to discuss alternate arrangements for your teaching and other responsibilities with your unit head or dean. The Provost has indicated that the university will be accommodating in this situation and suggested for example teaching class via Zoom on Friday if child care responsibilities prevent you from attending in person.
The QUFA Executive is meeting Thursday to discuss how we can best support education workers through this struggle. In the meantime, there are solidarity pickets happening around the province on Friday and I encourage you to participate if you can. Information about some of the local solidarity pickets can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/407194632665747/permalink/6040730115978809/