'Try living on $39K per year': CUPE members defy Ford, vow to walk off the job in protest of strike legislation

The Ontario government has introduced legislation that will prevent education workers in the province from going on strike. Despite this though, CUPE members are taking a stand and vow to be off the job to protest on Friday, November 4, 2022. The legislation from the Ontario government is sparking outrage amongst parents, teachers and politicians, who are concerned about living wages and workers’ rights.

It comes after The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the union representing 55,000 education workers in the province, gave a five days strike notice on Sunday if a deal wasn’t reached with the government by Friday. CUPE's decision to go ahead puts pressure on the Ontario government to change their terms.

Robert Drummond, professor emeritus at York University’s Department of Politics, says the Ford government is intent on maintaining a tight budget system that doesn’t involve public sector wage increases on a high level, despite currently showing a budget surplus.

“They’re trying to ensure that whatever settlements they make are pretty small amounts of increase and the union is pretty apart on that,” he tells Yahoo Canada News.

They also know most students would be disturbed if schools were closed after the two years of the pandemic, so they’re reckoning that they have a stronger hand with the union than the union has with them.Robert Drummond, Professor Emeritus at York University’s Department of Politics

He suspects a lot of people will find the move enforcing back-to-school legislation to be unfair, but there are also many who recognize that the opportunity to keep schools open is important and that the wage increase the union is hoping for is unrealistic from a government that’s already imposing strict austerity measures on public wages. The legislation will likely pass as they hold the majority of the legislature.

This wouldn’t be the first time such a move was used to divert issues caused by striking workers.

In 2018, the newly elected Progressive Conservatives used back-to-work legislation to end a strike at York University, which involved teaching and research assistants.

In 2008, the Liberal government passed legislation forcing striking transit workers back to work.