Yesterday Ontario education workers, members of CUPE, declared victory as the Ontario government agreed to rescind its strike-breaking Bill 28 and the invocation of the Constitution’s Notwithstanding Clause, which was the legal basis for the Bill. Bill 28 eliminated the union’s free collective bargaining rights, imposed the government’s final offer on the union, eliminated the union’s right to strike, and set a precedent for strike-breaking legislation that could be replicated across Canada.
While the struggle is not over, this victory is the result of the union’s determination to fight and to defy legislation that threatened free collective bargaining and the right to strike in the public and private sectors, across the country. The union mobilized public support, and the support of the labour movement across Canada against this draconian legislation, and that is how they won.
Now the struggle for a decent contract and a living wage is back on the front burner with negotiations between the union and the government resuming shortly. Schools are re-opening and workers are back on the job while negotiations continue, though a strike is likely if the government continues to block a reasonable agreement. The union is fighting for a living wage for some of the lowest paid workers in the public sector.
The struggle continues. The labour unity and militancy that forced the government to retreat on Bill 28 will continue to be needed as the workers continue their fight for a fair collective agreement.
What’s important here is the lesson that an aroused and united labour movement can force governments and employers off their union-busting and austerity agendas, and that labour must unite and move onto the offensive to protect workers’ rights and living standards, and to roll back the escalating government/employer assault.
The broad labour unity evident in support of CUPE’s defiance of Bill 28 this past week, will be needed as education workers continue to fight a right-wing Tory government for a living wage.
This continuing battle is also about the millions of unionized and non-union workers who cannot make ends meet despite working full-time, and at multiple jobs. Rising prices, rents, and interest rates are pushing workers into poverty, and desperation. This battle, too, requires that same labour unity and the militancy demonstrated by the education workers.
Now’s the time for labour to play its unifying, mobilizing role, and to move onto the offensive in the interests of all workers across Canada.
The 55,000 defiant CUPE members who risked massive fines and charges to defeat this draconian law, and force this right-wing government to retreat, show that workers are ready to fight.
What’s needed is militant labour leadership.
An injury to one is an injury to all!
Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada
November 8, 2022