Ontario’s labour relations board would ship a message that labour legal guidelines and collective bargaining rights not exist if it complies with a authorities request to declare a strike by provincial training staff unlawful, a union lawyer argued Saturday.
Speaking at a hearing that may decide the legality of the walkout by 55,000 members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Steven Barrett urged the board’s chair to not aspect with the Ontario authorities after it handed laws that banned strikes and imposed a four-year contract on union members.
Thousands of staff, together with training assistants, custodians and librarians, walked off the job on Friday in protest, and CUPE has indicated the strike might go on indefinitely.
Barrett, who referred to as the laws “Orwellian,” argued the contract needs to be thought of “imposed” as a result of it was not produced by collective bargaining negotiations.
“Siding with the government here … it actually sends a message that there’s no more labour law, there’s no more collective bargaining,” Barrett informed the hearing, which ran late into Saturday night.
“Labour peace, which is imposed this way, isn’t the labour peace the labour board should associate itself with.”
The Progressive Conservative authorities included the however clause in its education-worker laws, saying it intends to make use of it to protect towards constitutional challenges.
Board Chair Brian O’Byrne informed Barrett the province had the correct to invoke the however clause underneath the structure, regardless that it might have been “politically risky” to take action.
“Under our laws, governments can do this kind of thing legally. Even though some of us may find it distasteful or worse than that, they still have the right to do it,” mentioned O’Byrne.
“By law, when we have a collective agreement, then you’re not supposed to strike. And the reality is there’s a collective agreement, whether you like it or not,” he mentioned.
Barrett, citing case legislation, argued Ontario used the clause to handle labour points in an unprecedented and inappropriate means.
“The last ability to contest this assault is here and if you put an end to it, there’s nothing left,” he mentioned. “If these protests are suppressed by an order that comes from you … what is left for these workers to do? Just find another job?”
Saturday’s hearing started at 9 a.m. and continued for greater than 14 hours, with discussions between authorities lawyer Ferina Murji and CUPE’s authorized staff rising heated at occasions. Murji accused union legal professionals of appearing with “complete disregard for respect and decorum.”
Earlier within the day, Murji argued the labour board dangers undermining the province’s personal labour legal guidelines if it fails to declare the walkout unlawful.
“Ensuring that an unlawful strike is not allowed to continue is a very important labour relations purpose, and if you did not exercise your discretion to do so, it would significantly undermine the very clear prohibition on strike activity that is a key feature of the Labour Relations Act,” she mentioned.
Murji mentioned such a walkout is unlawful as a result of the Labour Relations Act prohibits work stoppages whereas contracts are in operation. She additionally argued that CUPE management knowingly suggested training staff to have interaction in an unlawful strike.
She performed video of CUPE-Ontario President Fred Hahn saying the union would supply the identical advantages to staff that it does in any strike.
Murji additionally shared video of Laura Walton, president of CUPE Ontario’s School Board Council of Unions, evaluating the walkout to at least one that was deliberate in 2019.
CUPE contends the labour motion is a political protest fairly than a strike. The hearing has repeatedly heard deliberations over the definition of a strike.
It argued in its board filings that the objective of its members’ motion is “to express opposition through political protest to the (province’s) decision to trample upon employees’ constitutionally protected right to collectively bargain and right to strike.”
“Irrespective of what label anyone puts on the activity, Mr. Chair, it is a work stoppage. And a work stoppage, with any other name, still amounts to a work stoppage and therefore a strike, full stop,” Murji informed the hearing.
The job motion closed quite a few colleges, and the union has mentioned the protest might proceed indefinitely.
Barrett informed O’Byrne that ought to he deem the strike authorized, the job motion might proceed till the federal government repeals its new laws or till the union and authorities negotiate its finish.
“But that isn’t your concern,” Barrett informed the chair. “The job of the labour board is to oversee the collective bargaining system, and in doing so give effect to Charter values and Charter rights. There are many ways in which the government could have avoided students not being in school … they certainly didn’t have to provoke the reason that we’re here now, with respect to enacting this unprecedented, horrendous legislation.”
CUPE had initially requested that each Education Minister Stephen Lecce and Andrew Davis, the assistant deputy minister, be referred to as to testify earlier than the board.
O’Byrne dominated that Lecce is exempt from testifying on account of parliamentary privilege, however mentioned Davis could possibly be referred to as to testify.
But after hours of delays, a lawyer for CUPE mentioned he wouldn’t name upon Davis to offer proof as a result of paperwork the union wished to submit couldn’t be made accessible.
The authorities’s new legislation has set fines for violating the ban on strikes of as much as $4,000 per worker per day – which might quantity to $220 million for all 55,000 staff – and as much as $500,000 per day for the union.
CUPE has mentioned it would combat the fines, however may even pay them if it has to.
The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation’s consultant aggregation voted to ship CUPE Ontario $1 million to assist pay the fines, the union mentioned in a submit on its Twitter account. The donation comes a day after Unifor pledged to ship $100,000 as a present of help for CUPE.
This report by The Canadian Press was first revealed Nov. 5, 2022.