The Communist Party of Canada (Ontario) condemns the Ford Government’s proposed legislation that will slash public sector workers’ wages, benefits and pensions and seeks to eliminate the right of free collective bargaining in Ontario. This is now the centrepiece of an all-out assault on the living standards and democratic rights of the people of Ontario.
On June 5th, the Conservative Government of Ontario announced legislation that, if passed, will apply to 1 million public sector workers across the province and push the working class as a whole further into poverty. What is being called “wage restraint” legislation is in fact a massive cut to wages, benefits and pensions right 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 a cut of over 4%.
While the Conservatives are saying that this is a temporary measure, its effects will be felt for many years to come as it applies to any collective agreements that are negotiated over the next three years and would apply for the three years following.
The Ford Government is pushing its anti-worker agenda by pretending that the government has been too generous in the past. 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. 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.
This legislation is an axe held above the heads of teachers, education workers and health care workers who are currently entering bargaining. It tramples the rights of all workers and unions in Ontario to free collective bargaining and is a danger to workers across the country. The Ford government has already put in place anti-democratic legislation to try and smash student unions and student organizations. If this legislation eliminating free collective bargaining in the public sector is allowed to pass, the next step could be “right-to-work” legislation as we have seen in many states in the U.S. which would dramatically undermine the ability of Ontario’s unions to defend the rights of workers.
This legislation also sends a message to the private sector that it is open season on wages and living standards.
The class nature of this government has been clear for more than a year now. It cancelled the minimum wage increase meaning a transfer of wealth from Ontario’s lowest-paid workers to business in the order of 1.3 billion dollars. It has rammed through legislation that will open the door to mass privatization of healthcare. It has attacked public education by forcing through cuts that are resulting in the slashing of 25% of high school teachers and the classes they teach.
The Tories are looting the province of Ontario and facilitating the looting of the bank accounts of working people by employers and landlords.
The good news is more and more people understand we cannot wait for the next election and that we need action now to block these measures and stop this government. The massive high school walkouts and rallies to protect public healthcare and stop education cuts have put tens of thousands into the streets and have clearly shown that mass action is possible.
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, the largest private sector union that has broken with the OFL and CLC.
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) pledges to redouble efforts to build on this resistance to Doug Ford’s corporate agenda.