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LONDON – In an unprecedented move to silence a dissenting view, the London District Catholic School Board rescinded permission for one of London’s most respected Catholic priests to make a deputation to the board about Church teachings on the value of work, contracting out, and the right to fair wages. The board decision was made, despite an appeal by the Most Rev. Ronald Peter Fabbro, C.S.B., Bishop of London Catholic Diocese, to allow Father Frank O’Connor to make the deputation to the board on his behalf. The Bishop intervened when the Catholic board rescinded an earlier offer allowing Father O’Connor to address the board at their May 10 meeting on behalf of 700 Catholic school custodians and support workers (who are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, CUPE Local 4186) now challenging the board’s practice of contracting out custodial jobs. In a letter dated May 4, 2004, board chair John Ferris deems Father O’Connor’s deputation on behalf of CUPE Local 4186 “inappropriate” and indicates the previously approved presentation would not be allowed to proceed. The senior board official uses the pretext of a possible union challenge – of the controversial contracting out – under labour code provisions, as the reason for quashing Father O’Connor’s deputation. Undaunted by the board’s refusal, Father O’Connor left a written version of his deputation for board members to read. His written brief focuses on accepted Church principles of social justice and highlights the obligation of employers to pay workers a living wage, and to not contract out work that can be done by an employer’s own workers. Father O’Connor states that, the contracting out of custodial jobs which drives down wages and contributes to increasing poverty in the community, should be reconsidered by the board. The Catholic school board, which had a $1.5 million budget surplus last year, has been criticized by many in the Catholic community for contracting out the work of board custodians to private companies who pay workers low wages and provide few benefits. “This is no doubt one of the most overt cases of the quelling of free speech we have seen in our community. Not only was the offer to allow Father O’Connor to present to the board rescinded, a direct request from the Bishop to allow Father to speak on his behalf was ignored. For our Catholic board to go to this length is just unconscionable,” says Rosemary Van Niekerk, the president of CUPE Local 4186. CUPE Local 4186 has publicly challenged the contracting out of custodial jobs saying the Catholic board’s practice contradicts Church teachings on the dignity and value of work. -30- For more information, please contact: Rosemary Van NieKerk President, CUPE 4186 (519) 671-1200 Stella Yeadon CUPE Communications (416) 578-8774