PBI-Canada visits CUPE picket lines in Ottawa following provincial legislation that overrides the Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Published by Brent Patterson on

CUPE picket line at Greenbank Road, Ottawa.

Peace Brigades International-Canada was present at two Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) picket lines in Ottawa this morning.

They were at the office of Member of the Provincial Parliament (MPP) Lisa Macleod on Greenbank Road and at St. Laurent/Cyrville Road.

The Toronto Star reports: “Some 55,000 unionized Ontario school support workers are set to illegally strike Friday after Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives rammed through legislation overriding Charter rights and imposing a contract.”

CTV adds: “To prevent CUPE from challenging the bill, the government invoked a notwithstanding clause.”

The notwithstanding clause overrides parts of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including collective bargaining rights.

CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn says: “We are not going to allow our rights to be legislated away.”

CUPE National President Mark Hancock says: “We’ve seen workers legislated back during a strike. We’ve seen workers forced to take a collective agreement through legislation, but never have we seen the notwithstanding clause used, which is trampling over workers’ rights and our human rights.”

And the Canadian Civil Liberties Association has warned: “An important piece of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is being shredded before our very eyes.” It says, as reported in The Guardian, that Bill 28 shatters the norm of governments restraint in invoking the clause and putting other rights – free speech, freedom of religion – at risk.

The government has threatened a $500,000 per day fine for the union and a $4,000 a day fine for each worker.

The workers include education assistants, early childhood care educators, library staff and school maintenance staff.

Their average annual salary is $39,000. More than 70 per cent of the 55,000 workers are women and more than half work at least one additional job to make ends meet. Many workers must also go to food banks because of this disparity.

CTV explains: “[The legislation also imposes] a four-year contract on education workers that includes a 2.5 per cent increase in salary for those who make less than $43,000 annually, and a 1.5 per cent increase for all other employees.”

But CBC adds: “CUPE has said that framing is not accurate because the raises actually depend on hourly wages and pay scales, so the majority of workers who earn less than $43,000 in a year wouldn’t get 2.5 per cent.”

Hahn has also stated: “If they want to say that strikes are illegal, then they need to understand that people still have the right to protest for their rights, to demand something better from our government. A government that is sitting on a $2.1-billion surplus, a government refusing to actually invest in our schools.”

To find a picket line near you, CUPE has posted this Picket Line Finder.

Peace Brigades International accompanies union movement struggles in Latin America where thousands of trade unionists have been murdered.

In Honduras, we accompany the National Rural Workers Union (CNTC), in Colombia we accompany the CCAJAR lawyers’ collective who have had the killings of trade unionists deemed as crimes against humanity, and in Guatemala we are accompanying the Military Diary Case in court that involves several military and police officers accused in the forcible disappearance and murder of trade unionists.

We continue to follow what is happening in Ontario.


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