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Toronto–Over the past several years, the Tory government has endeavoured, through force of legislation, to wrest control of the open and natural process of collective bargaining and impartial arbitration in Ontario.

And Bill 58, that takes away the right of paramedics, other ambulance workers and many municipal workers, to strike and forces them into a rigged arbitration process, is just another in a series of destructive, anti-worker legislation this government has rammed through the Legislature, said Brian OKeefe the Ontario secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) the union that represents more than 4,000 ambulance workers and 85,000 other municipal workers, province-wide.

Today, at a media conference at Queens Park, CUPE released a legal analysis of Bill 58, clearly outlining how once again the Tory government is attempting to skew the process of collective bargaining in the public sector. If passed into law, the legislation will not only designate ambulance workers an essential service, effectively taking away their right to strike, but it will also take away the right to strike for thousands of other municipal workers.

In addition, it will give the government wide-reaching powers, including the power to appoint any arbitrator it deems fit and to dictate the form the arbitration will take.

According to the Labour Minister, there is nothing wrong with this Bill.

But we know, and the legal opinion shows, there is plenty wrong with it. This legislation is a gross and inappropriate intervention of the collective bargaining process. The implication of this is that the provincial government is, in effect, writing collective agreements. And its a clear violation of the collective bargaining process, says OKeefe.

The legislation also requires arbitrators to compare public ambulance workers with private ambulance workers. The legal analysis says, using the private sector as a comparator in the sector is a method for forcing wages and benefits to the lowest common denominator in the sector.

This is deliberate. Its a way to reduce the wages and benefits of ambulance workers and many other workers. This is very much in line with what this government has done since taking power, in using legislation to control the bargaining process while at the same time push down workers wages, said OKeefe.

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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