By nine this morning about 200 CUPE workers were protesting outside of MPP Vic Fedeli’s office in downtown North Bay. Henri Giroux, the North Bay and District Labour Council president, was also on hand to show solidarity with the striking workers.
“We expect a big turnout,” Giroux said, speaking over the sounds of car horns and clanging pot lids. “We’re going to have more people coming out throughout the day.”
He noted it was important for the Labour Council to support the cause, because Bill 28, the Keeping Students in Class Act, “is unconstitutional,” and “it’s unbelievable this government would do that.” Giroux called the action “a bully tactic.”
See: VIDEO: 'Enough is enough' say supporters of education workers
And: Education workers picketing Fedeli's office
“We’re here for a long haul,” he said, “and hopefully they get back to the bargaining table and work out a fair deal for these people.” Workers are “tired and have had enough,” Giroux emphasized.
His point was shared by Trevor Russell, the president of CUPE 1165, which represents secretarial, custodial, trades people, and Information Technology workers within the Near North District School Board. There are over 315 members.
Russell spoke of the “wage constricting legislation” the members are striking against. He noted that “Bill 15 gave us four years of zeros, which was a wage freeze, and Bill 124 gave us three years of one per cent.”
“So, in seven years we’ve received three per cent raises, and inflation has gone up more than 12 percent in that time, and another eight per cent just this year.” As for Bill 28, Russell sees it “as an attack on our civil liberties,” and with his union, is ready to continue striking “until they repeal that law.”
He mentioned his chapter would have preferred to work out the differences at the bargaining table “but this government refuses to do so.” The government’s failure to act led to workers on the street, Russel emphasized. “They chose this.”
Jason Bourdon, the president of CUPE Local 2799, which works for the Nipissing-Parry Sound Catholic District School Board, noted the chapter has about 100 members “predominantly custodians, maintenance workers, and secretaries.”
Bourdon is keen for the union to return to negotiations with the province, as it will help retain staff, “and treat them fairly after 10 years of cuts and hardly any gains.”
“We just want to keep up with inflation, and we want the proper support for our staff and our students in our schools.”
“Everyone deserves the right to bargain freely,” he said, “and not to be legislated back to work.”
David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca