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Bill28 Cover
Premier Doug Ford's pre-emptive use of the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom to override basic human rights protections, nullify collective agreements and unilaterally impose employment conditions on union-represented workers sparked a visceral response of solidarity from the labour movment, and a repositioning of the government's negotiating stance.

Notwithstanding the need for workers to make a living wage, Doug Ford blinked, writes David McLaren:

Doug Ford thought he could bully education workers into taking a poverty wage – 2.5% for those making under $43,000 and 1.5% for those making over. Trouble was, the average wage of school custodians, teachers’ assistants and office staff is $39,000. That’s below a Living Wage anywhere in Ontario, especially in Toronto. And inflation is running about 6 or 7%, so the Conservatives’ ‘increase’ would actually be a cut.

Through their union, CUPE, workers said ‘no.’ So the Premier began the name calling (“greedy unions”) and the misinformation (“they’re asking for 50% more”) and the back-to-work legislation. And, just to be sure the union got the message (and his butt protected in a court battle) he threw in the Notwithstanding Clause of the Constitution.

That clause is essentially a get-out-of-jail-free card for governments who want to override citizens’ Charter rights … ‘notwithstanding that collective bargaining is a right protected by the freedom of association section of the Charter (as the Supreme Court has found), we will curb your right in this instance because we can.’

I think that was the final straw. Suddenly the Premier was faced with union solidarity. Support and pledges from other unions to help CUPE cope with the hefty fines ($500,000 for CUPE and $4,000 per member per day) that would be levied through the back-to-work legislation.

That and the growing threat of a general strike that would include members from the private unions he curried favour from during the election. Mr. Ford was no longer the working man’s friend (not that he ever was).

He blinked. Bill 28, complete with the Notwithstanding Clause, will be rescinded. CUPE members are going back to work. Negotiations will resume and we can only hope that these will be done in good faith.

The lesson from all this is that there is strength in unity and unionized workers can make their voices heard loud and clear. But I worry about the workers without a union who are at the mercy of whatever the boss decides to give them. I also worry about how easy it was for Mr. Ford to override the Constitutional rights of 55,000 citizens.

Makes you wonder, who’s next?

David McLaren



Bank of America Memo revealed: “We hope” conditions for American Workers will get worse.

A Bank of America executive stated that “we hope” working Americans will lose leverage in the labor market in a recent private memo obtained by The Intercept.

A summer of discontent? Why public sector workers are preparing to strike in B.C.

B.C. could be on the cusp of a major period of labour unrest, similar to what we are seeing in other parts of the world like the United Kingdom. If the labour movement in Canada can mobilize working people, who are seeing and feeling how corporations have profited from the pandemic while ordinary people have paid the price, the change could be significant.

Record job vacancies are finally leading to higher wages — but not high enough, economists say.

While the average hourly wage grew 5.2% year-over-year in July, overall inflation rose 7.6%, signalling that worker pay is not keeping up with consumer prices.

Canada’s largest corporations avoided $30 billion in taxes last year, report finds.

Tax avoidance by corporations more than doubled in 2021, according to Canadians for Tax Fairness, an ‘unexplained loss that could not come at a worse time.’

The new villain? Workers fighting for better wages. Don’t fall for it.

Food bank usage across Canada hit all-time high, nearly 1.5M visits in March: report.

The number of people using food banks across the country surged to an all-time high earlier this year, with high inflation and low social assistance rates cited as key factors in the rise, a new report from Food Banks Canada indicates.

Ontario government plans legislation to pre-empt strike by CUPE school support staff.

The provincial government will impose a contract on 55,000 school support staff after CUPE said its workers would strike starting Friday if no deal was reached by then.

Ontario CUPE strike: Members gather outside Queen’s Park, Lecce’s office as government appeals to labour board over walkout   4 Nov 22

CUPE School workers not backing down.

Letter from a CUPE Stricker: I'm an Ontario education worker on an illegal strike. I'm not going back until we get a fair deal.

“Nobody wants our jobs anymore. I have a co-worker who wears Kevlar to work, because they’re afraid of being assaulted. Others go to food banks because they can’t afford to eat.”

'The government blinked': Union to end Ontario education walkout after Ford promises to repeal strike law

Primer on the Notwithstanding Clause (s33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms)



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