Government of Ontario Passes Draconian Bill 28 – Education Workers Defy
On November 3 the Ontario government passed Bill 28 the Keeping Students in School Act into law by a vote of 78 – 33 just 4 days after it was tabled. The legislation received Royal Assent the same day and in so doing imposed a contract, written into the law itself, on to 55,000 CUPE education workers in the province without their consent. The law invokes section 33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of the Canadian constitution also known as the nothwithstanding clause that, in essence makes the violation of these workers rights constitutional as the constitution itself permits governments to violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 
The law carries fines of up to $4000 for individuals and $500,000 for other entities like unions for each time they violate the law by engaging in any strike action. CUPE had been in a legal strike position and was set to begin strike action November 4 if the government did not seriously address the demands for increased wages and improved working conditions for the workers in the face of inflation and ongoing cuts to education by the government.
In defiance of the government’s arbitrary and vindictive abuse of power, CUPE refused to give up its demands and its right to strike and began an indefinite province wide political protest. Given the government used its majority to pass the law in the Legislature, CUPE has taken their fight into the political domain, making it an issue for the entire polity in Ontario and across Canada. Their pickets were held at MPP offices of all parties across the province making it clear that elected representatives must not place themselves above the people and must be held to account for such anti-democratic measures it does in the name of the people.
It is now up to the working people of Ontario and across Canada to speak up and make it clear that governments cannot rule by decree and dictate. In this vein, the day before strike action was set to begin, the president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) announced that it would back up any of its 8,000 education worker members who joined the political protest and walked off the job, despite not being in a legal strike position.
Education workers and teachers from other unions in Ontario and working people from a broad variety of sectors as well as grateful parents and students all joined CUPE on their lines. The atmosphere on the lines was very spirited and united. Both public and private sector unions have all spoken out in opposition to the legislation and in support of CUPE and its fight and vowed to stand with them in the days ahead.
Grassroots educators from the Ontario Education Workers United have started a GoFundMe campaign to permit everyone to financially support the CUPE workers who are sacrificing their pay in order to affirm the rights of all. In some schools, those educators not on legal strike have begun to take up collections and adopt-a-worker campaigns to financially support their co-workers and express their support in a concrete way.
Everyone is encouraged to take initiatives to contribute what they can to this fight as it is a fight for the right of the working people to speak, organize and decide what is acceptable to them and what is needed for a truly modern education system that the whole society benefits from. The province-wide protests are set to continue on Monday.
- This is the second time the Ford government has used the clause. The first time was to restore changes to the Elections Finance Act brought in by the previous Liberal government that had been declared unconstitutional by the courts. The use of the clause restored the measures that imposed new regulations onto everyone other than political parties who wish to participate in the electoral process.