Ford declares war on the working class


The Doug Ford government has just turned a minor labour dispute into class war in Ontario.

Refusing to budge in negotiations, offering a piddly 10 percent wage increase when 50 per cent was demanded, the Ford government, usually notoriously lazy, started the legislative session at 5 a.m. on November 1 to drive through a bill that not only removes union rights to free collective bargaining and to strike in Ontario but also puts at threat all of our constitutionally protected rights.

If you think this is an exaggeration, here is the appendix to the so-called Keeping Students in School Act.

“The Act provides for new collective agreements. The central terms for those collective agreements are set out in the Schedule. The Act requires the termination of any strike or lock-out and prohibits strikes or lock-outs during the term of the collective agreement. (4 years)

“The Act is declared to operate notwithstanding sections 2, 7 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Act will apply despite the Human Rights Code.

“The Act limits the jurisdiction of the Ontario Labour Relations Board, arbitrators and other tribunals to make certain inquiries or decisions. It also provides for there to be no causes of action or proceedings against the Crown for certain acts. Certain proceedings are deemed to have been dismissed.”

Faced with a union determined to get a decent wage for the lowest paid education workers, who care for children with disabilities, pre-school children in public childcare and keep our schools clean and functional, the Ford government has declared war on the labour movement and put all of our rights at risk

Section 7 of the Charter protects our freedom of conscience and religion, freedom of thought, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association. Section 7 is the right to life, liberty and security of the person. The right that won us legal abortion.

Section 15 is the Equality section of the Charter guaranteeing equality before and under the law without discrimination based on race, gender, religion, disability, which is the section used to defend gay marriage among other things.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Act limits the jurisdiction of the Ontario Labour Relations Board and arbitrators and applies “despite the Human Rights Act.”

As soon as this bill passes, which it will because the Tories have a majority, 55,000 Ontario education workers, most of whom are women will lose all their legally protected rights.

And as the right-wing pundit on CBC’s Power on Politics said yesterday “the teachers are next.”

The Ontario Federation of Labour called an emergency demonstration on November 1.  This has to be the first step in a province-wide mobilization not just of the labour movement but of every person who supports social justice and human rights. Each of us should put aside whatever else we are doing and join this struggle to drive back this assault on labour and human rights.

CUPE Ontario has said “Enough is Enough” and called a province-wide walk out on Friday November 4, whether or not the legislation passed. Ontario’s largest school board in Toronto has said the schools will be closed on that day. I hope it is with a sense of solidarity with the workers. Hopefully, the teachers’ unions will also go out in solidarity. I also hope as many parents as possible will be out supporting the picket lines or protests at their childrens’ schools.

The last time we had a major cross-province labour action was the Days of Action in the 1990’s against Mike Harris’s Common-Sense Revolution. Harris was a sociopathic leader who couldn’t care less how strong the opposition was and the mobilizations that were organized by a cross movement coalition led by Labour failed to change very much.

Dofo is a different kettle of fish.  He wants to be liked. His government claims it’s pro-labour separating public and private sector unions. It was also the height of the power of neo-liberalism. Now neo-liberalism is declining and the battle is against an alt-right that would like to roll the clock back to the days when people like women, Black, LGBTQ people, and Indigenous people had few if any rights.

This is the moment in Ontario for a massive, intersectional movement to fight for democracy, labour rights and human rights.

Judy Rebick is a Canadian writer, journalist, political activist, and feminist.