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CUPE National President, Mark Hancock (left) and CUPE-OSBCU President Laura Walton (right) speak to reporters during a press conference on November 7th, 2022. Photo credit: Canadian Press/Nathan Denette

Ford Repeals Bill 28 in Response to Widespread Labour Action and Union Solidarity

Written by
Sebastian Johnston-Lindsay
and
and
November 7, 2022
Ford Repeals Bill 28 in Response to Widespread Labour Action and Union Solidarity
CUPE National President, Mark Hancock (left) and CUPE-OSBCU President Laura Walton (right) speak to reporters during a press conference on November 7th, 2022. Photo credit: Canadian Press/Nathan Denette

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and labour and trade unions in the public and private sector are claiming a victory today as the Ford Government has agreed, in writing, to repeal Bill 28.

The Bill also known as the “Keeping Students in Class Act” legislated a contract on the province’s 55,000 education workers represented by CUPE and used the Notwithstanding Clause to prevent legal challenges and overriding Ontario Education Workers’ Charter Rights. 

Just after 9AM on November 7th, Doug Ford held a press conference during which he suggested if CUPE returned to the bargaining table then he would revoke Section 33. It wasn’t immediately clear following the press conference whether or not he intended to also revoke the legislation which had utilised the clause.

Union and labour leaders decried the Bill as an attack on workers’ fundamental rights to collective bargaining and an attack on every Canadian’s Charter Rights. The government’s agreement to rescind the legislation means that CUPE is again now in a legal strike position, a point which was reiterated by Laura Walton, president of CUPE's Ontario School Board Council of Unions during the question and answer period.

“We haven’t spent our leverage,” Walton responded when asked about if she felt CUPE had anywhere else to go. “With the repeal of Bill 28 education workers are still able to use their power. This is just the beginning.” 

She added that CUPE’s commitment to the people of Ontario is that the Union is going back to the table with open minds, and that they never left like Doug Ford had insisted. 

As a result of this win for the union, CUPE workers will be back in school on November 8th and will dismantle their protest sites as a sign of good faith. 

As to when the Legislature would be recalled to revoke the legislation, CUPE National President, Mark Hancock stated that there was no definite timeline but that he had spoken to members of the NDP. 

“Nobody really knew what would have happened had this deal not been reached,” Hancock stated. “This movement had legs of its own.”

The extent of the solidarity between the unions represented at today’s press conference was reiterated when Hancock refused to answer whether any representatives from unions who had previously supported the Ford Government wanted to speak.

“I wouldn’t put them in a position to respond to that,” he said, noting that today and previous weeks were about building solidarity.

Leaders of the Canadian Labour Congress, OPSEU, UNIFOR, and ETFO each took turns speaking, surrounded by a large crowd of other union leaders and representatives.  

Lana Payne, National President of UNIFOR, stated that she and the union’s 315,000 mostly private sector workers stood in solidarity with CUPE. 

“This attack on working people’s rights resulted in an unprecedented response. If worker’s rights can be stripped with no recourse then the same could happen to everyone else’s rights,” Payne stated to cheers. “Workers have made it clear that we will not tolerate the weaponizing of the Notwithstanding Clause.”

Walton, whose voice was hoarse after a long weekend of speaking, became emotional when reflecting on the magnitude of this achievement. “I may have lost my voice,” she said, but in an industry where nearly three-quarters of workers are women, “tens of thousands of workers have found their voice and realised they can have the power to push back and ensure that we all live in a world that respects workers.”

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