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 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.
In France, the unpopular President Emmanuel Macron recently spent a super oil refinery to complete the duty of two weeks of actions, which were controlled fuel supplies in much of the country. And in Britain, the right-wing Tory government is on the verge of adopting legislation that effectively makes illegal strikes in key sectors including air, road and rail transport.
The abrogation of workers’ rights is deeply unpopular with governments in North America and Europe, making a constant mockery of these very governments campaigning for “democracy” and “human rights” against “Russian aggression” in Ukraine. These attacks mean that the workers in the imperialist headquarters have essentially no democratic rights, at least not when they threaten to obstruct the way the war-order regime manages the severity of its actions at home and military affairs abroad.
The systematic destruction of workers’ rights is part of a conscious drive to establish authoritarian forms of government in all major countries. This process found its clearest expression in Trump’s fascist attempt on January 6, 2021, to overthrow the outcome of the 2020 US presidential election.
The compulsion to dictatorship rests on the deepening crisis of capitalism, which introduces the threat of a third world war, fought with nuclear weapons, and pushes social inequality to unprecedented levels. Workers’ wages and public services and social assistance, on which hundreds of thousands of people depend, are being sacrificed to increase the surplus bank balance and fund the imperialist war machine.
While Ford claims there is “no money” to support low-paid education workers – many of whom must work a second job to make ends meet – Canada’s federal Liberal government has no more than a 2.5 per cent annual wage “increase”. $600 million has been spent on the war against Russia by the US-NATO since February.
The federal Liberal government also delivered a massive $650 billion bailout to banks and major corporations at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, then forced businesses and schools to close, resulting in seven waves of mass infection and death. Meanwhile, a recent national survey revealed that one in five Canadians skip meals because they can’t afford food. Such a bitter contrast between wealth and squalor cannot be defended democratically.
The only way for the education support workers to respond to Ford’s anti-strike law is to fight for the teachers to mobilize and all workers in a campaign of mass defiance. Such a campaign could support and encourage the masses: All workers in Ontario, across Canada, and internationally have a direct interest in protecting the right to fight for a well-funded public education system and for increasing pay and increasing productivity.
It is this very policy that the corporate trade unions that led internationally in Canada, the bureaucratic apparatus of paying large wage earners, fiercely resisted. The Canadian Labor Congress (CLC) and the Ontario Federation of Labor (OFL) have given empty declarations of “solidarity” with the education support workers, who commit these organizations with millions of members to doing precisely nothing. Four Ontario teachers’ unions are playing a foul role, ordering their members to demonstrate Friday’s work as their “contractual duty” and warning them not to join stations or protest during “working hours.”
Recognizing the mass anger among the education support services, the Union Council (OSBCU) and its parent body in Ontario Schools, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), have been forced to call who are starting a “political protest.” Friday
But CUPE, Canada’s largest union with over 700,000 members, continues to insist against the law that a deal with Ford and Lecce can be reached through “negotiations” at the “bargaining table.” Enticing the government to resume talks, CUPE cut its annual pay rise demand from 11.7 percent to 6 percent on Wednesday.
CUPE and OSBCU refused to call for a joint strike with 20,000 teachers whose contracts expired on the same day as the support of education services, never mind working people more broadly. While Ford has declared with the use of the marking clause that he is prepared to use all repressive weapons to defeat the education support workers, CUPE will do everything to open and sabotage their struggle.
CUPE announced during Friday’s walkout that there would be no pickets in schools. Workers are being mobilized to outside the Ontario legislature, “protesting” at local Conservative Party political offices and writing emails to Ford asking them to “get it done.” In reality, there is no “negotiation” with the government that flaunts the collective bargaining system by rewriting the rules to impose its demands.
Unions justify their call for “political protest”, presenting it as a clever art. By “testifying” rather than striking, or so the bureaucrats claim, workers will not be able to violate the strike ban. In fact, what they are declaring is the end of a blow to a futile pressure campaign to persuade Ford and Lecce to sugar coat their poison pill. Their main concern is to defend the reactionary system of collective bargaining at all costs, since this status quo gives the antiquated monster workers privileged relationships with government officials and corporate executives.
These corporate ties are exemplified in the partnership between the governing Liberals, the social democrats and the trade unions at the federal level. This partnership, which has been given a majority in parliament by June 2025 to Trudeau’s minority government, is aimed at suppressing the class struggle at home and waging war for the Canadian government abroad.
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To strike down the Ford government ban, education aided workers in taking control of the struggle from the union bureaucracy, building a network of rank and file committees to lead a campaign of mass defiance. The boundaries of the collective agreement must be broken, with the teachers joining the fight and mobilizing the support of the entire working class to take down Ford’s control. The struggle for decent jobs, for a well-funded public education system, and for the protection of workers’ rights, is opposed to the domination of social and political life by an economic oligarchy. The crisis of the largest companies is required for social purposes rather than for private profit, which depends above all on the struggle for workers’ rule committed to socialist policies.
Since the attack on workers’ rights is rooted in the systemic crisis of global capitalism, workers must accept a united international response. The majority of Ontario’s education workers’ partners are workers around the world — whether they are workers and educators in the United States, French oil refiners or British health and transport workers — not union bureaucrats seeking a “negotiated” solution with their government. “Partners.” For this reason, the development of a genuine struggle against capitalist austerity and state repression depends on the building of the Workers’ Union Rank-and-File Committee.