Ontario to repeal new law threatening workers’ right to strike following pushback

Major reversal for the Canadian province’s conservative government follows days of immense political pressure

Ontario has announced it will fully repeal controversial legislation that undermined workers’ right to strike, in a major reversal for the province’s conservative government following days of immense political pressure – and the looming threat of a general strike.

Nearly 55,000 Canadian Union of Public Employees walked out on Friday after the conservative government of the Ontario premier, Doug Ford, introduced legislation that would unilaterally impose a contract on education workers, and levy hefty fines for striking. But on Monday morning, union leaders announced they would end their protest “in a gesture of good faith” following the conservative government’s abrupt turnaround.

Flanked by labour leaders from across the country, Mark Hancock, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (Cupe), said education workers had emerged victorious in their standoff, calling Ford’s attempt to break the strikes as a “regressive attack” that “united the labour movement like never before”.

“[Union members] took on the government – and the government blinked,” he said.

Ontario fast-tracked passage of Bill 28, which would have fined striking workers C$4,000 ($2,955; £2,260) for every day on strike and imposed penalties of C$500,000 a day on a striking union.

The law sparked controversy for breachingworkers’ rights to collectively bargain and was seen as setting a troubling precedent in Canada’s most populous province. It was deployed using a rarely used mechanism called the notwithstanding clause of the country’s constitution.

On Monday, Laura Walton, president of the Cupe Ontario school board council said Bill 28 would be rescinded in its entirety, only days after it was enacted. It will also be deemed not to have been passed as law, she told reporters.

Earlier on Monday, Ford had signalled his government was poised to back down.

“Our government is willing to rescind the legislation … but only if Cupe agrees to show a similar gesture of good faith by stopping their strike,” Ford told reporters. “I urge Cupe to continue to talk with us at the bargaining table.”

Citing the “right” of students to remain in class following more than two years of pandemic-related disruption, Ford said the decision to pre-emptively invoke the notwithstanding clause, which permits his government to pass legislation in violation of the charter – and to shield it from judicial review was an “an unprecedented situation that required unprecedented solutions”.

The legislation would have imposed a four-year contract on the union that includes 2.5% annual wage hikes for workers earning less than $43,000, and 1.5% for those earning more. The union had initially asked for an 11.3% raise for workers, citing stagnant wage growth and high inflation.


Leyland Cecco in Toronto

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Canadian bill would fine workers $4,000 for each day they strike
Justin Trudeau has sharply criticised Ontario legislation tabled by Doug Ford’s conservative provincial government

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

03, Nov, 2022 @10:00 AM

Article image
Over 55,000 Ontario education workers strike in defiance of ‘draconian’ law
Move comes after Canada’s most populous province fast-tracked bill that fines striking workers C$4,000 a day

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

04, Nov, 2022 @4:10 PM

Article image
Ontario declares state of emergency, threatening fines and jail time to end blockade
Court grants an injunction to remove protesters from the bridge between Windsor and Detroit

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

11, Feb, 2022 @8:39 PM

Article image
Ontario opposition leader resigns amid sexual misconduct allegations
Patrick Brown, leader of the Progressive Conservative party, has denied allegations from two unnamed women

Staff and agencies in Toronto

25, Jan, 2018 @3:46 PM

Article image
Ontario announces hard lockdown after Covid cases surge
Premier of Canadian province says restrictions will last for up to a month and should save thousands of lives

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

21, Dec, 2020 @8:25 PM

Article image
Ontario: Doug Ford refuses to demote caucus member photographed maskless
Sam Oosterhoff was part of large group gathered in banquet hall without masks or practicing social distancing

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

27, Oct, 2020 @6:12 PM

Article image
Canada: Ontario warned to expect 15,000 deaths from coronavirus
Health officials in Canada’s most populous province say extreme measures have probably prevented far higher death toll

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

03, Apr, 2020 @7:25 PM

Article image
Ontario pilot project puts universal basic income to the test
Conservative strategist leading first project of its kind in North America for decades says he wants ‘a floor beneath which people are not allowed to fall’

Ashifa Kassam in Toronto

28, Oct, 2016 @10:00 AM

Article image
Ontario announces new restrictions and steep fines amid Covid-19 surge
Premier Doug Ford to limit size of indoor gatherings to 10, down from 50, saying ‘crisis is far from over’

Leyland Cecco in Toronto

17, Sep, 2020 @7:55 PM

Article image
Tesla sues Ontario government for 'unfair' scrapping of electric car scheme
Company ‘singled out for unfair and arbitrary treatment’ by move which is just one of several Liberal policies killed off by Premier Doug Ford

Ashifa Kassam in Toronto

18, Aug, 2018 @9:00 AM