The Communist Party of Canada (Ontario) has pledged to fight Premier Doug Ford’s wage cut legislation and defend workers’ rights to free collective bargaining.
On June 5th, the Conservative Government of Ontario announced legislation that, if passed, will apply to 1 million public sector workers across the province. What is being called “wage restraint” legislation is in fact a massive cut to wages, benefits and pensions across the board. The so-called “Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act” caps all increases in compensation in the public sector at 1% for at least three years. If inflation remains the same as in 2018, this is over a 4% cut in total compensation over the period it would apply to an agreement.
The Ford Government is attempting to justify these measures by saying that public sector compensation is putting the province into the red. “In fact, more than two decades of brutal austerity in the public sector in Ontario pushed by both previous Tory and Liberal governments has meant wages have fallen far behind inflation and workers today have significantly lower living standards than they did twenty-five years ago,” says Ontario Communist Party Secretary Drew Garvie.
“While maintaining one of the lowest corporate tax rates in North America, Ford is lying when he says that cuts are the only response to a provincial deficit. The Tories are looting the province of Ontario and facilitating the looting of the bank accounts of working people by employers and landlords,” Garvie added.
The proposed legislation is looming in the background of negotiations as Ontario’s teachers, education workers and health care workers are entering bargaining. The Ontario Federation of Labour statement denounced the legislation: “Collective bargaining is a democratic right. This government is imposing an outcome on workers before collective bargaining has even begun.”
The public sector wage cuts are the latest offensive from the Ford Government. The Conservative government, elected one year ago after riding a wave of anti-Liberal sentiment has carried out a series of attacks on workers and the public sector. Early on Doug Ford cancelled the minimum wage increase which was in essence a transfer of wealth from Ontario’s lowest-paid workers to business in the order of 1.3 billion dollars. This year the Ontario government has pushed through legislation that will open the door to mass privatization of healthcare and pushed through deep cuts in public education that are resulting in the slashing of 25% of high school teachers and the classes they teach.
The same week the legislation was announced Ford adjourned Queen’s Park for an extended summer break up until October 28th, a week after the Federal election. Immediately following this announcement there was speculation that Federal leader Andrew Scheer had asked an increasingly unpopular Ford to adjourn, in order to help Conservative prospects Federally.
“It’s our job to use the summer and the fall to defeat this legislation, to force Doug Ford out of hiding and to expose the Conservative corporate agenda which will do even more damage if they are returned to power in Ottawa,” said Drew Garvie.
CUPE Ontario, which represents workers in health and education that are entering negotiations has called for mass action. “If left to their own devices, Doug Ford and his government will inflict irreparable damage on this province. No one can sit this one out,” said Fred Hahn in a press release.
The Spring has already seen several large scale mobilizations against the Ford government which are contributing to Ford’s slump in the polls. Walkouts of hundreds of thousands of high school students and large rallies of tens of thousands of health care workers and teachers at Queen’s Park have shown that mass action is possible at this stage.
“Now is the time for unity and militancy in the labour movement to fight this legislation. The fightback strategy must include all OFL affiliates as well as Unifor,” said Garvie.
“Now is the time to build a People’s Coalition, with labour at its core, to build towards mass action like the 1990s Days of Action against the last Conservative government in Ontario that could have brought down the Harris government had they continued.”
The Communist Party of Canada (Ontario) has pledged to redouble efforts to build on this resistance to Doug Ford’s corporate agenda.