Union leaders say the Ontario government’s plan to bring in back-to-work legislation to end the York University strike violates charter rights and would further poison labour relations between the two parties.
“Has the new minister of labour or the premier used their authority to encourage this employer to actually go back to the bargaining table? No,” CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn said in a news conference at Queen’s Park Monday morning.
“Instead they’ve chosen to make one of their first pieces of legislation an attack on workers and in essence an attack on the quality of education at universities themselves.
A coalition composed of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 3903, CUPE Ontario, the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association are urging MPP’s to support workers’ charter rights by opposing the Ontario government’s back-to-work legislation.
Approximately 2,000 teaching assistants, graduate assistants and contract faculty at York University have been off the job since March due to a labour dispute.
“The government can help to end the labour dispute by using its authority to encourage the employer to show up to the bargaining table and negotiate in good faith,” CUPE 3903 chairperson Devin Lefebvre said.
“Stripping our rights to meaningful collective bargaining and our right to strike is not the answer. Back-to-work legislation will poison labour relations at York University for the foreseeable future and put a chill on collective bargaining as it eliminates any incentive for employers to negotiate with unions.”
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Union leaders say they are opposed to the practice of precarious employment and want the university to reverse the cut of more than 800 graduate assistant jobs. They also want to establish better support for survivors of sexual assault and stop cuts to graduate funding.
“The government has actually gone straight to back-to-work legislation and has skipped over the part where there’s an effort to try and get the parties to the table,” Canadian Civil Liberties Association executive director Michael Bryant said.
“It does raise the constitutional risk, I would have thought, because that’s hardly a fair, effectively, independent collective bargaining or right to strike capacity in the province of Ontario.”