The criminalization of Ontario education workers is a global attack on workers’ rights

The Ontario Education Employees Rank-and-File Committee is holding a public meeting at 7 pm Eastern on Thursday, November 3 to discuss the plan outlined below. Click this to pay attention to

Ontario’s hard-line Progressive Conservative government is pushing legislation through the provincial parliament to strike a criminal policy for 55,000 school custodians, teaching assistants, early childhood educators and administrative staff.

The strike is scheduled to begin next Friday following a massive 96.5 percent vote in favor of the strike action. The lowest-paid in the education sector, school support staff are determined to face years of real pay cuts and firm increased funding for an education system that has been decimated by decades of austerity.

Ontario school administrators and staff protest outside the Progressive Conservative conference on October 22, 2022. [Photo: WSWS]

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce are using their draconian ban to decide to further cut real wages. The four-year contracts, under the Orwellian-named Keeping Students in School Act, would provide a maximum annual salary increase of just 2.5 percent, under conditions in which inflation of basic necessities is running at 10 percent. Imposed contracts should also severely limit pay and eliminate job security provisions. Any worker who rejects a strike ban faces a potential fine of $4,000 for each day of action, while trade unions can be fined $500,000 per day.

Ford and Lecce have publicly declared that their illegal “collective” agreement will serve as proof of new contracts for 200,000 Ontario employers. However, their attack on the wages and rights of popular education workers is an attack on the entire working class. It focuses on the growing resistance to education and other public services, which highlights big business in imposing huge growth-driven, wage cuts on private sector jobs across Canada.

To enforce the ban and the concessionaire contracts, Ford invokes the Canadian constitution’s anti-democratic, and until recently rarely used, “yet clause.” This clause allows Canada’s federal and provincial governments to adopt laws that violate basic human rights, as guaranteed in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and thus protect them from being overturned by the courts. Ford’s invocation despite the clause tacitly admits that his government violates the core of the rights of the people and is intended to be such normal acts of authority.

Canada’s federal Liberal government criticized Ford’s invocation of the clause, but avoided striking it against the law. This double gesticulation is not surprising. The government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been smartly sitting on the rights of workers, threatening or breaking the latest laws to get them to work. These include illegal walkouts by postal workers in 2018 and strikes at the Port of Montreal in 2021. Trudeau is talking about a Canadian elite ruling party that, like Biden in the United States, prefers to use trade union bureaucracy to drive attacks on working people rather than directly between workers and the republic is in conflict.

The pursuit of workers’ rights under elite capitalism is a global phenomenon. In the United States, the Biden administration colluded with bureaucratic unions and rail companies to temporarily strike more than 120,000 rail workers in September. If unions fail to close through another round of massive concessions, the Democratic-led US Congress has pledged to step in and strike someone.


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