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Hundreds of community members and workers from a dozen unions rallied today in Bonfield, Ont., on Saturday, in a strong demonstration of solidarity with municipal workers in this town of 2016 people. The 16 members of Local 4616.2 were forced into a defensive strike nine weeks ago by a mayor and council demanding crushing concessions.
“These workers have been on strike for more than nine weeks, fighting concessions, fighting for fairness, so the labour movement in Ontario decided to send hundreds of people from Hamilton, Toronto, Durham Region, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, Ottawa, all over the province,” said CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn. “Council has not met since before the strike began. There’s a real democratic deficit here. And the mayor has decided that he won’t go back to the bargaining table. If he listened to the people of this community, more than a thousand of whom signed a petition saying they should go back to the bargaining table and settle this strike, then he’d be acting like a real mayor. Instead, he is acting like a bully.”
The rally brought pledges of support from union leaders including ETFO President Sam Hammond, OSSTF President Paul Elliott, Unifor Ontario Director Katha Fortier, OECTA 1st Vice-President Ann Hawkins and representatives of OPSEU, USW, PSAC, COPE and IAMAW.
“This is a microcosm,” said Ontario Federation of Labour President Sid Ryan. “The battles we are fighting here are the battles we are fighting right across Ontario – concessions at the bargaining table, attempts to rip apart our collective agreements, attempts to destroy the labour movement. Your fight is the fight of every worker in the province.”
Many rally participants were local residents, who have shown strong support for the CUPE members, holding a spaghetti dinner and donating to help the workers pay bills and buy groceries during the strike. CUPE Ontario and local leaders thanked the community for their continued support.
“All we are asking is to have a fair contract and a respectful workplace free of harassment and bullying,” said Diane Francoeur, one of five workers the mayor fired during the strike, who noted the workers will not sign a collective agreement until those five workers are reinstated. “This strike was 100 percent preventable. Mayor and council are not only hurting us, they are hurting everybody in our community. This conflict will be felt for a long time after all this is said and done.”
For more information about the Bonfield strike and how to support the workers, click here.