October 24, 2013 - Vol. 3
Hudak Changes Tactics In Face
Workers from across
southern Ontario send clear message to PCs at policy convention in
London, September 20, 2013.
• Hudak Changes Tactics In Face of Broad
Opposition - Jim Nugent
• Bill 113: New Anti-Worker Legislation
- Rob Woodhouse
• Bogus "Facts" to Justify Attacks on Workers
College and University
• Take a Stand Against Dictate! - Dan
• Government Refuses to Consider Joint Task
Force With Union - Christine Nugent
• University of Windsor Workers Affirm Their
Rights - Interview, Dean Roy, President, CUPE Local 1393
Hudak Changes Tactics In Face of Broad Opposition
Working people in Ontario
should take note of a change
of tactics in the anti-worker, anti-union offensive of the Ontario
Progressive Conservatives (PCs). The aim of
this tactical change is to split the workers' growing unity in
opposition to austerity
and to attacks on their rights by trying to pit workers in the public
sector against those in the private
The PCs are under pressure from the widespread
opposition they have aroused among working people with their proposed
legislation which they call "right-to-work." This pressure was evident
September PC policy convention where the delegates were split down the
middle in a debate on
whether to include the proposed slave labour laws in their next
platform. It was also evident in public statements made by former PC
leader John Tory who advised Hudak on the
eve of the convention to "get rid of the right-to-work stuff" because
it "is scaring voters and making people in the party nervous."
John Tory's advice and the nervousness of PC party
members do not arise from any pro-social principles but from pragmatic
considerations about getting
elected. They are no doubt reflecting on the results of the six
by-elections held during the past year. Despite a virtual collapse of
the crisis-ridden Liberals in
many ridings during those by-elections, the PC candidates were defeated
in all but one riding, where they won by a very narrow margin of votes.
is clearly not buying into the PC version of austerity and attacks on
Initiatives of the PCs since the policy convention
indicate that the Hudak Conservatives are heeding the advice of Tory
about "getting rid of the right-to-work
stuff," at least until after an election. Instead, they are
concentrating their anti-worker rhetoric and attacks on workers in the
public sector, and government
corruption to divert from their shift in tactics.
One of these initiatives was the release of what amounts
to a PC election platform by Hudak on October 1. The document is
entitled "The Lost Decade"
in reference to the ten years since the Liberals took over from the
Conservatives. Right-to-work legislation is not mentioned
at all but it contains
a vicious attack on the one million workers in Ontario's public sector
who are all denounced as "bureaucrats." These workers make up 13 per
cent of the Ontario
workforce and include occupations ranging from nursing home attendants
to nuclear power plant designers. They provide the vital services
Ontarians rely on.
The PC pitch blames all of Ontario's economic problems
on these workers -- from the loss of manufacturing jobs to the fiscal
deficit and even high
electricity rates. According to the PCs, the problem is that the
Liberals won't make the "tough decisions" necessary, such as public
sector wage and job cuts and
increased privatization of public agencies and services. In an
introductory letter to "The Lost Decade" Hudak says the PCs will make
these tough decisions: "We
did it before [under Mike Harris] and we will do it again!"
What is not mentioned is that at the end of Harris/Eves'
term, despite all the talk about debt and deficit and billions in
payments to the banks, both the debt
and deficit grew while public services were privatized, user fees
increased and standards degraded. Profiting from the destruction of the
public health care
system, Harris's wife now owns a private nursing company. PC
"austerity" was a transparent scheme to pay the rich then and remains
The PC strategy in the next election, which they say
they want as soon as possible, seems clear from their "Lost Decade"
platform theme. They will run
against Liberal corruption, opportunism and mismanagement, while
keeping quiet about their own agenda. This is what the Harper
Conservatives did to capture
power in the 2006 federal election. Harper ran against the corruption
of the Chrétien-Martin gang, then falsely claimed he had been
"mandate" for sharply
stepping up the anti-social offensive.
Central to the PCs' pushing the "Lost Decade" theme will
be the scapegoating of public sector workers and the failure of
Liberals to make the "tough
decisions." If the PCs are able to capture power as the alternative to
the corruption and opportunism of the discredited Liberals, they will
also claim a "mandate"
for their broad agenda to drive down the standard of living of not
only public sector workers but of all workers, including unionized and
workers in the private sector.
The answer of the workers' movement to these new tactics
of the PCs must be to continue mobilizing all working people against
the phony austerity being
pushed by political representatives of the rich and for the defence of
the rights of all.
Bill 113: New Anti-Worker Legislation
For the past two years the
Liberals and Conservatives
(PCs) have kept up steady pressure to impose austerity contracts on
workers classified as essential
services providers. This
pressure has included Liberal and PC
legislative proposals for drastic changes to the interest arbitration
system and administrative
bullying of arbitrators by the Liberal government. Since the
Legislature re-opened following the summer break, the PCs have taken
several initiatives to step
up this pressure.
One of these initiatives was the PC bill introduced as a
Private Member's Bill by MPP Toby Barrett on October 7, Bill 113, the Comprehensive Pay Fairness
Act. This is the third bill introduced by the PCs in the past
year to change the interest
arbitration system. Bill 113 is
very short, just over 500 words. It is
also fairly mild in tone compared to the previous Liberal and PC bills
on arbitration and compared to the other virulent anti-worker bills of
the PCs, but it has
the same aim: blaming the workers for the state of the economy and
ensuring that austerity measures are imposed on public sector workers
in order to pay
Bill 113 would establish an entity under the Ministry of
Finance to be known as the Comprehensive Pay Fairness Division. The
bill mandates this entity
to collect and publish specified information about labour markets and
the finances of governments and employers throughout the broader public
effect of this would be to create an official version of public sector
employers' "ability to pay" and to incite the public against public
The second part of the bill is the operative part,
compelling arbitrators to "consider" the published material in their
decision: "Sec. 6. In making a decision
or award settling all or part of a collective agreement for public
sector employees, an arbitrator or a board of arbitration shall consider the information that the
Comprehensive Pay Fairness Division publishes under section 5."
This bill, if
passed, would result in arbitrators'
decisions being more frequently overturned by judicial reviews if the
decisions fall outside austerity parameters
set by the government. This would effectively usurp arbitrators' powers
and make them instruments of government dictate. It would also throw
out the window
the idea that arbitration makes up for taking away workers' right to
strike through decisions that replicate what the outcome would be from
Subjecting arbitration decisions to more court reviews
is in keeping with the thrust of the reorganization of labour relations
the PCs advocate. In their
anti-worker policy whitepaper "Flexible Labour Markets," the PCs called
for dismantling many of the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB)
processes which developed
during the years of the post-war social contract. It says labour law
should be "modernized" by curtailing the OLRB powers so "employees and
able to rely on common law and the existing judicial system for
The bill also complies with demands made by labour
lawyers representing public sector employers who complain about lack of
"court supervision" of OLRB
arbitrators. An example is the dissenting opinion written by the lawyer
for Toronto's St. Michael's Hospital this past summer when an
arbitrator gave workers
a wage catch-up agreement that didn't conform to government wage freeze
policy. The hospital's lawyer complained: "Arbitration boards can
the public policy embodied in the statutory criteria which they are
supposed to apply [because] these decisions are rarely overturned by
The employer's lawyer went on to say: "If courts will
not require arbitration boards to apply legislative policy more
strictly, perhaps there should be a
stronger legislative requirement in the Act for them to do so." Despite
its mild appearance, this is exactly what Bill 113 does: put a strong
in the Labour Relations Act for
with the austerity agenda being pushed by the
Liberals and PCs, regardless if it contradicts their mandate
and powers. In essence Bill 113 would eliminate any independent role
The tone of the PC bill may have been styled for the
purpose of working out arrangements with the Liberals for changing
arbitration law. In the Wynne
government's Throne Speech opening this session of the Legislature and
in its Budget Speech, the Liberals indicated they will consider PC
proposals for changing
interest arbitration legislation. Former Finance Minister Dwight Duncan
said the same thing in his 2012 Budget Speech. Will passing this bill
with certain tweaks be
the next anti-worker collaboration between the Liberals and PCs?
1. Workers employed in the
health sector, emergency
services (ambulance, fire and police), the Toronto Transit Commission
and some other workers have been designated essential services
providers and are not allowed to strike during collective bargaining.
When there is a dispute
during bargaining it is submitted to a process under the Ontario Labour
Relations Board (OLRB) known as "interest arbitration."This process is
let a neutral arbitrator agreeable to both employers and employees
settle disputes based on replicating the likely outcome if strikes or
Bogus "Facts" to Justify Attacks on Workers
As part of the PCs putting themselves on an election
footing, their new Finance Critic, Vic Fedeli
has launched a media
campaign scapegoating workers
in the public sector for all of Ontario's economic problems.
Scapegoating public sector workers is central to the election strategy
of the PCs, to present
themselves as the alternative to the corruption, opportunism and
mismanagement of the Liberals.
To kick off his campaign, Fedeli released "Fedeli Focus
on Finance, Vol 1, No.1." It claims to be a serious investigation into
Ontario's financial situation
but is muddled partisan misinformation. Fedeli presents a compilation
of data on contract settlements from the Ministry of Labour website and
claims this "study"
shows 80 per cent of broader public sector contract settlements violate
the government's wage freeze policy. This, Fedeli says, proves the
strategy to impose austerity by "working together" with trade unions is
not working and that the PC proposal for a legislated wage freeze is
the only way to
effectively impose wage austerity.
A serious look at the facts, however, shows just the
opposite. Since collaborating with the PCs to impose a wage freeze on
teachers and education workers
with Bill 115, the Liberals under both McGuinty and Wynne have been
very effective in imposing public sector wage freeze contracts using
and administrative measures to impose public sector wage freezes and
cuts, all the while holding the threat of legislation as a trump card.
carried out under the threat of legislation and through administrative
pressure on arbitrators, the Wynne government is imposing the austerity
demanded by the
rich. Fedeli's problem is that it isn't forceful enough.
Fedeli's compilation of data does a numeric count of
contracts settled between January 2010 and July 2013 to come up with
his "80 per cent." The period
of time covered by the contracts and the number of workers involved is
not considered. The number of workers covered by the contracts compiled
and of these 348,873 have zero increase contracts (53 per cent).
The percentage of zero increase contracts goes up to 64
per cent if only those currently in force are considered. There are
contracts affecting 538,393 workers
currently in force and 345,272 of these workers have zero increase
contracts. Many of the current contracts not having a zero increase
cover a long period of
time, as long as five years, and do not reflect the contracts being
imposed at the present time. Of the 341,473 workers covered by
contracts having only a 24-month
term, 330,074 have zero increase contracts (97 percent).
The pattern of settlements can best be seen by looking
at the contracts with a similar time frame and term such as the
education workers' contracts
imposed with Bill 115, which are for 24 months ending in 2014. There
are 331,904 workers affected by these contracts and 99 per cent are
contracts. Besides 265,000 teachers and education workers, zero
increase contracts cover 46,000 Ontario government employees in various
bargaining units and
11,600 community college faculty and staff.
There are also 7,700 health care workers with 24-month
zero increase contracts ending in 2014, mostly workers at for-profit
nursing homes. Eighty-seven
per cent of these are zero increase contracts. These contracts were
settled either through arbitration or negotiations carried out under
the threat of legislated
settlements based on the Bill 115 model. This shows that the trend is
toward arbitrators imposing zero wage increases, even though there is
authorizing a wage freeze for health care workers.
Another 71,000 health care workers have zero increase in
at least one year of their contracts. These non-zero contracts are
spread back over at least 36
months, putting their start date well before Bill 115. Of these, one of
the largest units is comprised of 52,000 nurses under central hospital
1. Fedeli replaced Peter
Shurman as finance critic for
the PCs in September. PC Leader Tim Hudak fired Shurman over his
in an alleged expense account scandal.
College and University Workers Defend
Take a Stand Against Dictate!
teachers and education workers in
Windsor to oppose Bill 115 and demand the government to
not dictate through
legislation, June 1, 2012.
The era of the social contract, along with its notion of
good faith bargaining has been replaced by dictate under the logic of
austerity and "exceptional
circumstances." This has meant cuts to social programs, including
chronic underfunding of Ontario's community colleges, the lowest per
capita funded system
in the country.
Governments at different levels refuse to affirm public
right and instead have implemented an austerity agenda on behalf of
private interests, including
through new anti-worker arrangements enforced in different ways. At the
colleges this has been reflected in an attempt to change workload
employer has tried to alter workload arrangements that date back to the
establishment of the Standard Workload Formula (SWF) after the 1984
by trying to deteriorate the SWF in negotiations and manipulate it
through "voluntary workload" and other arbitrary methods.
The use of part-time college workers and the refusal to
recognize their right to unionize is also part of the new anti-worker
arrangements being used to
undermine the right to education. To offset the chronic underfunding of
the system, the College Employer Council (the Council) on behalf of the
seeks to use lower-paid part-time faculty and support staff, along with
increased workloads for full-timers. It is resorting to dictate to
implement this agenda
as a result of college faculty and support staffs' refusal to accept
these anti-human conditions.
Recent "Negotiations" at
Recent experience in negotiations of both faculty and
support staff reveals a refusal on the part of the
Council to negotiate in good faith and instead makes use of changes to
the Colleges Collective Bargaining
Act (CCBA) enacted by the Liberal government in
2007, which allow the employer to circumvent the collective bargaining
process. The Liberals and then-premier Dalton McGuinty promised to use
introduced to the CCBA to recognize the right to collective bargaining
of part-time college workers; however, this was not done.
Instead, the changes were used to claim that the
employer had the right to impose a new contract on faculty in the
2009-10 negotiations. The Council
purposely pitted the legitimate demands of the part-time and sessional
faculty for improvements in their wages, working and living conditions
of already unionized, full time employees. It also used other tactics
to make sure its agenda prevailed, such as manipulating the voters'
list resulting in a narrow
acceptance of the contract.
Support staff too are well aware of the refusal of the
employer to bargain in good faith. In the last round of negotiations in
2012, the union held
demand-setting meetings across the province and went to the bargaining
table with these demands; but the Council refused to discuss key
issues, instead demanding
concessions. Then the Council made their monetary offer in the
media on the last Friday afternoon before the strike deadline and
refused to return to the
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union is asking its
members for a strike mandate ahead
of the 2014 negotiations. It is a justified response to the conditions
and should be supported by all faculty and support staff, who are
currently discussing how to make sure a mandate to strike is used in a
way that maximizes
their ability to defend their rights.
There are other things to consider as well, given that
the Council on behalf of the government has used everything in its
power, from the Ontario Labour
Relations Board to changes to the CCBA, to facilitate imposing its
dictate. It is clear that the Council on behalf of the government has
provoked faculty and
support staff to take strike action in the past by refusing to
negotiate. This will no doubt be tried again in the hopes that faculty
and support staff can be blamed
for disrupting the school year for students, while the colleges pocket
the savings from the strike. There is also the issue that the Council
has purposely interpreted
the CCBA to try and allow for its unilateral imposition of an offer.
Striking college support
staff at Northern College in Timmins, September 13, 2011.
A Political Stand In
Defence of the Rights of All
During their strike of 2011, members of college support
staff took political action by making education in
community colleges an election issue. Picketing Premier Dalton
McGuinty's campaign stops in northern Ontario was one of the ways this
was done. It forced
the Council to return to the bargaining table and to negotiate a
contract that could be brought back to the members. It was a political
against the employer's attempts to impose retrogression, and resulted
in the rights of college support staff being defended in the contract
that was eventually
ratified. It also represented a stand against the anti-social agenda
being implemented by the Liberal government in all sectors of the
economy an agenda that is directly
facing college faculty and support staff again.
College faculty and support staff will make headway by
elaborating that their stand in defence of wages and working conditions
is in favour of education
and in opposition to the schemes of the Liberals to steal public funds
to pay the moneylenders.
Cambrian College and Boreal College (top right), Sudbury, September 5, 2011.
Government Refuses to Consider Joint Task Force
As college faculty and support staff prepare for another
round of negotiations in 2014, indications point to the continued use
of dictate by the government
and its representative, the College Employer Council. The Council has
rejected the request of the Ontario Public Services Employees' Union
(OPSEU) on behalf
of college faculty to establish a Joint Task Force to work on the
government's major transformation of post-secondary education.
Over the summer, Minister of Training, Colleges and
Universities, Brad Duguid, requested roundtable discussions with
college and university presidents
on Differentiated Strategic Mandate Agreements (SMAs), online learning
and credit transfers. There is concern that the government's plan to
24 colleges will cause massive changes, including eliminating some
programs and moving or creating others, without a say from faculty,
staff and students.
Algonquin College faculty in 2006
The request by OPSEU for the Joint Task Force was aimed
at working with the government to implement any changes while making
sure they did not adversely
affect the working lives of faculty and the learning conditions of
students. OPSEU College Faculty Division Chair, Benoit Dupuis said:
"These changes will
have a profound impact on our students, faculty, staff and
administrators alike. Joint Task Forces will ensure the academic and
administrative arms of Ontario
colleges work together on the path set out by the current government.
But more importantly, working together we can ensure that we are
delivering a quality
education to our students. [...] College Faculty are the experts when
it comes to students' education. We expect Ontario colleges to put
quality education first
and ensure faculty are included with regards to these planned sweeping
In the 2012 support staff negotiations with the Council,
a Letter of Understanding signed by both parties outlined the
conditions for establishing a Joint
Task Force when there are changes to a college's mandate.
The collective agreement's Letter of Understanding
"When a significant change to the Colleges mandate is
directed by the government, the parties agree to establish a Joint Task
Force made up of
representatives of the local union and the college."
It also points out that the functions of the Joint Task
Force shall include making recommendations to:
"-Achieve the objectives of the changed mandate or
"-Facilitate any necessary reassignment of employees;
"-Facilitate any retraining that may seem appropriate;
"-Reduce any negative impact on employees."
The refusal of the Council, which acts on
behalf of the government, to respect the agreed-upon Letter of
Understanding and participate in a Joint Task Force as requested by
OPSEU's Colleges Academic Divisional Executive, exposes the Wynne
government's false claims of "fairness" and "consultation"
and its method of operation as being one of dictate.
College faculty have a right to a say on
government-proposed changes to education and how these affect the
quality of education, their working environment,
their livelihoods and the learning conditions of their students.
The refusal to set up a Joint Task Force indicates what sort of
political climate this government
is creating as college faculty and support staff enter into the next
round of negotiations.
The future of post-secondary education is an issue that
is important to education workers, students and the general public. The
government has a duty to
respect signed agreements by honouring the setting up of a Joint Task
Force to provide for genuine consultation and decision-making. This
refusal deprives faculty
of a say, negates the validity of their collective agreement and
exposes the Liberal government's intent to dictate, not negotiate.
University of Windsor Workers Affirm Their Rights
On October 9, one month after going on strike, members
of CUPE 1393 who work at the University of Windsor, voted 95 per cent
favour of the tentative
agreement their union had reached with the university. The workers
perform a wide range of jobs on campus and include nurses in the
Student Health Centre,
Athletics staff, IT professionals and skilled tradespeople.
The strike is of significance as it was the City of
Windsor that in 2008, following a brutal strike, forced its municipal
workers, also members of CUPE,
to accept the contracting out of city garbage collection services,
which was then used by other cities across the province to do the same.
The victory of CUPE
workers at the university five years later over issues related to the
university's goal of contracting out services, as well as the broad
public support the workers
received, are of significance to all workers in Windsor.
Ontario Political Forum
spoke with union president Dean Roy about the significance of the
CUPE 1393 members
thank the community for their support following the
end of the strike
OPF: Both the
union and the university administration say they made an advance. Can
you explain how things ended up?
Dean Roy: We had
two big issues: they were looking for
big cuts to our job security in the form of our bumping language and
big changes to our job
evaluation system, which is our pay equity system. We came out of the
strike with exactly the same rights as we went in. We successfully
defended our rights
on both those fronts. We agreed to a new process for the two systems
which should work quicker for them if they implement it properly, but
the rights haven't
picket line your members all made a point of explaining that this fight
was not about money, but about the future. Can you elaborate?
DR: The two big
issues I talked about were really about
the future for a lot of people. People like myself, they wanted to cut
the bumping language to three
choices [of jobs when your job is eliminated], then you're on the
street. A lot of us in senior positions, it wasn't going to hurt us.
The odds of someone like
myself with 29 years seniority [being bumped] are remote. But for the
it was a big issue. They want job security. More importantly, how that
tied to the job
evaluation system, the proposal [the university] stuck to right to the
end, was it wanted a two-tier wage system. Whereas someone doing the
as me would
have done the job evaluation and it would have come out in a lower pay
category. So, workers coming in off the street who get their jobs
evaluated right away
would have been making less. So, in essence what they were doing was
really affecting future workers, who would have been making less. This
against pay equity which was our big issue. We have a fairly old
bargaining unit. A lot of us were never going to go for job evaluations
again. But, they said
they had to go out and fight for the future workers to make sure they
have the same rights they have today. It was great to see.
This local hasn't been on strike for 35 years. It was an
absolutely amazing experience. I cannot believe how solid the local
recieved a lot of support from the campus community. How did this
affect the strike?
They really wanted to impose the cuts where people
could be on the street a lot faster and people had fewer rights. The
strike surprised them, how
much support we got and how solid the unit was. They came back to us at
the end and conceded on those issues. [...] Things changed once we went
on strike. We were out there for four weeks, and they were playing
hardball. After two weeks, they kept dictating and
when they came back to the table they pretended as if it was no use to
even be there since they had already settled with the other locals
(CUPE 1001 and Unifor
195). After week four is when the student sit-in started. I think that
really put pressure on them when they saw the students rallying towards
our side. I think
that made a difference. It was a different ball game after that.
The support from the other unions was also unbelievable.
Support from CUPE 1001, Food Services and Janitorial staff was amazing.
They let us use their
offices, which was amazing as we did not realize what we would require.
As well, a lot of their members were on the picket lines with us
[despite settling] --
a lot of them before and after work, and a lot of them refused to cross
the picket lines and walked the line with us for the full four weeks.
That was amazing.
Support from the Faculty Association was amazing as well. Not only did
we get a lot of financial support through donations from the executive
itself, but a
lot of professors cancelled classes or took the time before class to
educate people about the strike. The three Unifor locals on campus as
well, we got
support from them at our day of solidarity and certain members also
joined us on the picket lines.
OPF: Is there
anything you would like to add?
The message I would like to send is that the
solidarity from other locals was amazing. The support we got from
university locals all over Canada was
amazing. A lot of financial contributions came in. One, I forget the
specific unit, but it was university workers in British Columbia. They
sent a cheque but
they also took the time at a union meeting to make a picket sign saying
their local supports CUPE 1393 and sent it to us. That was great. You
how important support like that is until you're on strike.
The student support, the sit-in and rallies also made a
big impact, making the university negotiate. Students have power and
when they unite they can get
what they want done. Quebec showed that and I think it's spreading.
Students standing together can change the world.
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