Celebrate Labour Day by telling Doug Ford: “Hands off our rights!”

Posted on in Debates

TheStar.com – Opinion/Contributors
Sept. 3, 2018.   By

This Labour Day, workers in Ontario must join forces to stop the erosion of our hard-won rights in the workplace and beyond.

It has been a tumultuous summer during which the new government of Ontario has cancelled or cut programs that serve the most vulnerable Ontarians. Ontario families, children, Ontarians on disability support, people with mental health issues, students and teachers — all have had important programs changed or cut.

In its first months, the Ford government has used legislation to force workers off the picket lines, undermining their democratic right to collective bargaining. It has cut funding to schools and to after-school programs. In Doug Ford’s Ontario, our government exchanges the rights of Ontarians and quality public services for a lower minimum beer price.

This trend will continue. The premier has shamefully said that he will cancel the raise in the minimum wage, despite the fact that 1.7 million Ontarians and their families are counting on that increase come January. Without that increase, even a minimum wage worker who has full-time work will still fall below the poverty line.

Since the 2018 minimum wage increase, Ontario has seen a boom in job creation, with 61,000 jobs created in July alone. The economy is benefiting. The minimum wage increase will prove more beneficial to minimum wage earners than a tax cut. In fact, they’ll make $1,950 a year more, which is $710 more than a tax cut would get them. Higher household incomes mean increased consumer spending, lower workplace turnover and lower absenteeism.

We are the people, and we can stop this government from taking away our rights. Last year, we won significant changes to employment law in our province, changes that have a positive effect for all workers, including fair scheduling laws to paid sick days, the scheduled minimum wage increase, and making it easier to join and keep a union.

Workers in unions do better, and when unions bargain strong protections for the right to join a union and decent work, all workers benefit.

It is advocacy from the people of Ontario, in the labour movement and community groups like the Fight for $15 and Fairness that have won changes in our province, from five paid days leave to help survivors of domestic or sexual violence to protections for workers against contract flipping.

Doug Ford’s slash-and-burn policies are not cost savers. The fees for cancelling projects outstrip the savings he reports. The $400,000 reported as a payout to Hydro One’s CEO was, in fact, $9 million dollars upon retirement and other incentives. When we demand changes, when we tell our representatives that we’re counting on them to help our families rather than lining the pockets of a chosen few, we can make change happen.

Workers stand to lose these rights, our public services and the $15 minimum wage unless we come together.

Ontarians are not complacent. We are demanding that Ford stop the arbitrary dismantling of programs, systems and services across our province.

Ontarians have demanded that Toronto city council take the province to court over the halving of seats. They were successful. Likewise, Ontarians are protesting the government’s anonymous complaint line, a phone line that undermines the professionalism of education workers and could put their livelihoods at risk. Ontarians have never stopped pushing to protect the public ownership of public services.

Faced with the determination of Ontarians to ensure decent work and adequate supports for all Ontarians, Doug Ford will act. Keep sending the message loud and clear to Doug Ford: Hands off our rights!

Chris Buckley is president of the Ontario Federation of Labour.

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2018/09/03/celebrate-labour-day-by-telling-doug-ford-hands-off-our-rights.html

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