Close to 200 people braved poor weather December 18 to stand up for workers’ rights outside of the Ontario Liberal leadership debate. Teachers, educational support workers, and their allies gathering to take a stand on Bill 115, a piece of legislation that claws back basic collective bargaining rights.
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The event was organized by CUPE Ontario in coalition with education workers and community groups who are concerned about the attack on democratic rights contained in Bill 115 and other proposed legislation. Speakers included CUPE National President Paul Moist.
“Collective bargaining is one of the cornerstones of the labour movement,” says Moist. “It is a right earned after generations of struggle, a right that brings a level playing field for workers when they bargain with employers.”
“Dalton McGuinty lost his job because he didn’t respect workers and our rights to collective bargain,” Moist added. “Let that be a lesson to all seven leadership hopefuls tonight. If you must respect workers and Kill the Bill.”
This bill, passed by the Liberals and Conservatives, stripped 250,000 education workers of the right to collective bargain, including 55,000 CUPE school board workers. Bill 115 gives the Minister of Education the power to veto deals that are reached through collective bargaining and by imposing contracts on school boards, effectively taking away workers’ democratic rights to negotiate the terms and conditions of employment. The Liberal government also proposed another bill to take those rights away from nearly half a million more workers in the broader public service.
Other speakers Allison McSheffrey, CUPE Local 2357 president; Harvey Bischof, provincial OSSTF vice-president; and Sean McKenney, Ottawa & District Labour Council president.
CUPE members plan to be a presence at candidate debates around the province to draw attention to what is seen as an unprecedented attack on democratic collective bargaining rights that have been in place for decades.