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Statement from ETFO President Karen Brown on need for free collective bargaining

October 31, 2022

TORONTO, ON – The following is a statement from Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) President Karen Brown:


“On Sunday, it became known that the Ford government intended to table legislation that would impose a collective agreement on 55,000 Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) education workers in Ontario. 


On behalf of ETFO’s 83,000 members, I want to say that we unequivocally condemn the Ford government’s imposition of a concessionary contract on some of the lowest-paid education professionals working in Ontario’s schools. ETFO stands with CUPE members and their right to strike for better pay and working conditions, and not with a regressive government that is cloaking anti-labour legislation as being pro-education. 


Today, on October 31, ETFO had a central bargaining date. Unfortunately, today is the day the Ford government is tabling back-to-work legislation that undermines the free and fair collective bargaining process for 55,000 CUPE members. On this of all days, ETFO could not, in good conscience, sit across the table from the government, and so we ended negotiations for the day. 


In creating legislation that imposes a contract on CUPE members, the Ford government has chosen the most draconian manner of legislating away two fundamental rights protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: the right to bargain collectively, and the right to strike. 


Today, the Ford government has signalled it is uninterested in reaching collective agreements that are negotiated freely and fairly. And its oppressive use of the notwithstanding clause is another flagrant abuse of power—one that continues to attack democracy by trampling on Ontarians’ constitutional rights.


The Supreme Court of Canada has confirmed that collective bargaining, as well as the ability to strike to support bargaining efforts, are constitutionally protected rights that should not be legislated away by governments that want to avoid the inconvenience of negotiations.


This is a move by the Ford government to curb the ability of education workers in this province to effectively advocate for much-needed improvements in public education. It is not only an outrageous assault on our CUPE colleagues, but also a blow to the morale of all education workers in this province.”