TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Aug. 23, 2012) - The Liberal government's proposed legislation isn't just an unprecedented attack on protected rights of educational workers' - it will damage the education system for generations and its impact could be felt far beyond the educational sector, warned the President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario, the union representing over 55,000 education support workers in the province.
"The Liberals are more concerned with their own electoral success than they are with our collective future as a province... it's a very dangerous game that sets a very dangerous precedent," Fred Hahn said today at a news conference.
Hahn joined Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) President Sam Hammond and Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) President Ken Coran at the joint news conference to outline their objections to legislation expected to be tabled in the Legislature early next week. If passed, it would strip basic rights from thousands of Ontario citizens who work in school boards across the province.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) represents over 55,000 school board support staff that form the backbone of the province's education system. Custodians, School Secretaries, Educational Assistants, Early Childhood Educators, Library Technicians, Lunch Room supervisors, and all other support staff in the majority of English and French, Catholic and Public, Elementary and Secondary Schools are members of CUPE.
The Charter of Rights guarantees workers have the right to engage in bargaining for the terms and conditions of their employment. This legislation would override those constitutional rights. It's clear the Liberals are ready to sacrifice the constitutional rights of thousands of Ontarians in a desperate attempt to win the upcoming by-elections.
"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."
Hahn added that this fundamental attack on democracy is quite disturbing and "frankly reminiscent of the legislative and accountability fiascos the people of Ontario have seen from this government around the G20 and the ORNGE Air Ambulance service."
The government is ignoring the harm their proposed legislation will cause to communities across Ontario who rely on the education system to care for and prepare our kids. Essential to these goals are the workers in the system, including all educational support workers in schools. A fairly negotiated settlement with school boards that understand the role this work plays in truly putting students first is the answer. Threats and bullying legislation will solve nothing.
"The Liberals want you to believe they are protecting education. How can they claim that when they are cutting over $2 billion from a system entrusted with educating future generations?" says Hahn. "Money gone is money gone - a cut is a cut - and surely that is true even in McGuinty math."
CUPE members understand the economic reality in Ontario. They also understand that maintaining strong public services and keeping good jobs in our communities are important parts of Ontario's economic recovery.
"Rest assured, our members will be in schools come September 1 providing the services that students and families rely on," said Hahn. However, the Government's threat of legislation is a "very dangerous and highly political game and we will not be a part of it. We will challenge this proposed legislation - to the Supreme Court, if necessary - because this goes against everything the people of Ontario believe in," he added.