The Ontario NDP party members were kicked out of the legislature this week after a series of outbursts against Premier Doug Ford and his government’s Bill 28.
Bill 28, the Keeping Students in Class Act, 2022, intends to set up new regulations and fine education workers on strike.
The back-to-work legislation was invoked on Nov.3 ahead of a strike of about 55,000 education workers.
As negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement between unions and the Ontario government broke down, the education workers will begin protesting on Nov. 4.
Toronto Centre MPP Kristyn Wong-Tam spoke in legislature, criticizing the Ontario government’s handling of the negotiations with the unions. They brought up the recent pay raise for Conservative cabinet ministers, while education workers continue see their pay remain stagnant.
“I rise to speak against Bill 28, a draconian and unconstitutional bill,” said Wong-Tam.
The government is proposing a $4,000 fine for each member, and a $500,000 fine against unions.
Unions, including CUPE Ontario, indicated that fines will be covered.
Also, Wong-Tam said that the Notwithstanding Clause was not supposed to be used in contract negotiations.
On Nov.2, interim party leader and MPP of Toronto-Danforth Peter Tabuns continued to criticize Premier Ford about the negotiations during question period. Tabuns was kicked out of the legislature by the house speaker after refusing to withdraw his comment that Ford and his ministers are lying about the damage they are doing to the education system.
The Leader of the Official Opposition reaffirmed his support for education workers on Twitter, writing that he will continue to call out the lies of the Premier.
Further, the NDPs are circulating a petition called Tell Ford: Stop Attacking Workers.
“The Ford Government created a staffing crisis in our schools and is refusing to negotiate a fair deal with education workers,” the petition reads. “If we don’t fight back, Ford will drive caring adults out of the classroom permanently and our kids will pay the price. Stand up for fairness for education workers, and demand better for our students by signing today!”
Minister of Education Stephen Lecce said the government had no choice but to push forward with Bill 28 and use the Notwithstanding Clause because of CUPE Ontario’s demands during the negotiations.
Unions are calling for an 11.7 per cent pay increase in the new collective bargaining agreement, while the government countered with a 2.5 per cent increase for workers earning $43,000 or less , and 1.5 per cent for those earning more than that threshold.
The 55,000 education workers that are expected to strike include education assistants, early childhood educators, custodians and administrative assistants.
Strikes across Ontario are expected to occur on Nov.4.
In Toronto, picket lines and rallies will concentrate along Wellesley St. and University Ave. before marching towards Queen’s Park.
More details to come.
Listen to CJRU’s news coverage of the education workers strike: