Liberals playing a 'dangerous game', CUPE prez says
That is the message three powerful and influential Ontario unions delivered yesterday, vowing to fight all the way to the Supreme Court legislation that would impose a contract on Ontario teachers.
Fred Hahn, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees made the announcement in conjunction with Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, and Ken Coran, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation.
The draft bill is expected to be introduced in the legislature next week. If passed, it would impose wage and benefit cuts on Ontario's teachers, something the province said is necessary to get a handle on the government's $15-billion budget deficit.
More than that though, the three union leaders said by enacting legislation to impose a contract, the province is circumventing workers' Charter of Rights guarantees to be able to bargain for the terms and conditions of their employment.
What's more, they accused the Liberals of manufacturing a problem to help them win by-elections in Kitcherner-Waterloo and Vaughn.
"It is no coincidence that this manufactured crisis is happening at the same time as by-elections in Kitchener-Waterloo and Vaughan," said Hahn. "Why else would the Minister of Education do media for an entire day in Kitchener-Waterloo on proposed legislation when the Legislature isn't even in session? This is the kind of self-interested, cynical politics that people can see right through. It's far worse than moving a power plant."
He added the Liberals are playing a "very dangerous and highly political game ... We will challenge this proposed legislation — to the Supreme Court, if necessary.”
The legislation the Liberals are looking to pass would match the deal it struck with the province's English Catholic teachers, two Francophone teachers unions and some school support workers organizations. That deal includes three unpaid days off and the elimination of the banking of sick days (which right now can be cashed out at retirement), as well as banning lockouts and strikes.
Despite their opposition to the proposed legislation, Hahn also said CUPE members will be in school at the start of the school year.
"Rest assured, our members will be in schools ... providing the services that students and families rely on," said Hahn.