For years, governments across Canada got in the habit of legislating an end to difficult negotiations. They would avoid discussions at the bargaining table and just pass a law imposing a contract on workers.
But over the last number of years, the courts have said enough. Courts have ruled that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives workers, including public sector workers, the right to belong to a union, the right to free collective bargaining, and the right to strike if they wish when their employer won’t budge.
The issues of education workers in Ontario are very similar to the issues faced by CUPE members in Alberta. In this province, school support workers have not seen a wage increase in eight years. In Alberta, an educational assistant makes an average of $27,500 per year.
Conservatives in Ontario have decided that instead of trying to come to a settlement – they will use their majority to force their will upon the lowest paid workers in the system.
It is not lost on us that if the Conservatives win in Ontario, we will see the same tactics used here in Alberta. Our wages will go even deeper below the poverty line. Even more workers will quit, and there will be even more vacancies in schools than there already are. Special needs students won’t get the care they need, schools will get dirtier and in greater states of disrepair, and good luck waiting to talk to anyone in the front office, or even getting your call directed.
School workers deserve a living wage. Students deserve the help they need. And Conservative governments deserve defeat at the polls.
We stand very much with the school workers on strike today in Ontario.