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TorontoThe appointment of Tory hacks as arbitrators and the draconian language of back to work legislation introduced by the government to force striking school support workers in Toronto and Windsor back on the job totally undermines the future of collective bargaining province-wide and is in violation of a free trade labour side agreement, says Brian OKeefe the Ontario secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

Stephen Raymond, hand-picked by the Tories as the arbitrator for CUPE Local 4400 and the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is not on the official list of arbitrators and has on several occasions represented the board while working for the law firm Hicks, Morley, Hamilton, Stewart, Storie. The wording of the legislation also constrains the arbitrators to a deal that does not put the school boards into a deficit situation.

Talk about a kangaroo court. The province has opted for an arbitrator who has a conflict of interest because he once worked for the employer. This is a biased process that skews the playing field and totally undermines the rights of unionized workers, says OKeefe in response to the Tory back to work legislation, today being rammed into law.

OKeefe points out that since forming the government the Tories have consistently attempted to wrest control of collective bargaining and undermine a fair and impartial arbitration process. The attack on the arbitration process started with Bill 26, which constrains arbitrators decisions with criteria such as the employers ability to pay. This was followed by Bill 136, which introduced further constraints and allowed for Tory-appointed retired judges, to preside over arbitrations.

Last year a court ruling stopped the Tories from appointing any more retired judges to arbitrations, stating that the appointments were a violation of natural justice, were biased and an attempt by the government to get control of collective bargaining.

Everything that was gained in the retired judges case will go down the drain when this back to work legislation is passed later today. It is has horrendous consequences for all local unions going to the bargaining table. It is intended to again tip the system in favour of the employer and like the appointment of hand-picked retired judges is a violation of natural justice, said OKeefe.

CUPE is also charging that the legislation contravenes a labour side agreement in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that specifies that there must be independent adjudication in labour disputes.

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For more information please contact:
Brian OKeefe, CUPE Ontario Secretary-Treasurer
(416) 579-7414
Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications
(416) 578-8774

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