A Way Forward Can Be Found by Refusing to Submit to Dictate and Addressing Conditions in Schools

A Way Forward Can Be Found by Refusing to Submit to Dictate and Addressing Conditions in Schools – Empower Yourself Now –

The education workers of CUPE-Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OSBCU) broke new ground for the entire labour movement in November 2022, when they defied the Ford government’s attempt to impose a contract using the notwithstanding clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and by doing so violate their right to strike and negotiate. The education workers showed that it is by refusing to submit to dictate and the limitations used by the government and the courts to keep workers from taking action to affirm their rights that a path forward for negotiations can be established.

In other words, in order to have negotiations workers cannot accept dictate by the government — which is in fact part of the existing constitutional order. They must act on the basis of the actual conditions in the schools and their conscience which recognize that their working conditions are students’ learning conditions. By doing this, they can win public opinion in support of their demands. It is the conditions that determine what can and cannot and what must or must not be done, not the dictate of the rich who declare that public services must be cut and privatized so that the rich can get paid.

The entire labour movement expressed itself as standing as one with CUPE-OSBCU’s 55,000 education workers in their defiance of an imposed contract. Since then, this spirit has imbued advanced sections of the labour movement across Canada. The public servants of the Public Service Alliance of Canada who, despite government threats, went on strike to force the government to negotiate conditions of work that were being changed outside of negotiations; the striking Windsor Salt workers who continue to refuse the dictate of the company that is trying to smash their union; and the BC port workers who rejected a tentative agreement that did not correspond to their actual conditions and demands, are but a few.

The experience of forcing the Ford government to back down on its Bill 28 in November 2022 continues to guide Ontario teachers and education workers. Today they are finding a way forward in the face of the Ford and Trudeau governments’ insistence that they must do whatever the international cartels demand to finance the electrification of the economy, including indebting the people and removing funds from public services. While they steal from public services and incur debt, these governments refuse to affirm the rights of workers to determine wages and working conditions commensurate with the actual conditions of living and work.

When workers assert what they require to live and work within the existing conditions, governments invoke police powers as the Ford government did with the notwithstanding clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They demand that workers must stay within this constitutional order and accept government dictate.

This shows what is meant by constitutional order: the rule of the rich that the workers are not permitted to question or resist. Ontario workers are in no mood to accept this status quo! Ontario workers want a constitutional order that has its basis in the actual conditions and corresponds to those conditions. Ontario workers want a constitutional order that affirms the right of all to an education, health care, recreation, etc. that is of the highest standard the society can provide and which sets standards that all governments must uphold as their duty.

By refusing to be limited by what the government with its constitutional order dictates, Ontario teachers and education workers can make further advances in uniting themselves, students, parents and everyone else to affirm the right to education and to a say over the direction of their society.