KINGSTON, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Nov. 20, 2012) - Hundreds of Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) members gathered last night to say "No" to government plans to remove democratic rights, and vowed to stand together against existing legislation, Bill 115, which already does this in school boards. With people standing in the aisles, the Ambassador Conference Resort meeting room was filled to bursting as the union launched the region's part in a province-wide campaign to protect workers' democratic rights to collective bargaining and impartial contract arbitration.
"Last night's meeting shows the resolve of our Kingston members to join other workers across the province to fight the government's attack on their basic democratic rights to negotiate fairly and freely with their employers," said Fred Hahn, president of CUPE's Ontario Division. "It was great to see so many members eager to get involved in this campaign."
Hahn, together with CUPE National President Paul Moist and local leaders, provided the crowd with updates on the Ontario campaign plans and on the Liberals' legislation.
Bill 115, the Liberals' legislation attacking school board workers, and other proposed legislation, strips long-standing rights from workers who collectively negotiate their contract with employers. It allows the government to dictate what a collective agreement must achieve and to change a negotiated agreement unilaterally. Proposed legislation also undermines the ability for workers who do not have the legal right to strike to seek impartial third-party arbitration when collective bargaining hits a dead end.
"These rights come from decades of hard work that have brought fairness and stability to labour relations in Ontario. They must be protected," said Moist.
The crowd included members from school boards and health care, who were among the first targeted by legislation, as well as significant numbers of social service workers, municipal workers and workers at the university who are concerned about future legislative attacks. Much of the evening was spent brainstorming local campaign activities meant to raise public awareness about the importance of protecting collective bargaining and third-party arbitration rights.
The campaign is calling for the repeal of Bill 115 and an end to any further legislation proposed by the government and PC Leader Tim Hudak that undermines the rights of other public service workers.