On May 1, CUPE Ontario joins with its friends, allies and workers around the world to honour the fight for an eight‑hour workday, and to call for decent work, dignity and respect. We are proud to recognize International Workers’ Day, or May Day, at a time when the province of Ontario has not only turned their backs on workers rights but is actively trying to reverse history and return to a time when dangerous and precarious work was the norm.
This year we are also marking the 100th anniversary of another powerful moment in our labour history, the Winnipeg General Strike. More than 30,000 people took part in a six-week walkout that started on May 15, 1919. Their demands included fair wages, as well as the right to join a union and bargain collectively. Since then, much has been accomplished by the labour movement, but unfortunately, the threat to worker’s rights, worker’s wages and worker safety is unprecedented under the Ford Conservatives.
Bill 47, the so-called ‘Making Ontario Open for Business Act’, is a radical departure from a commitment to protect ‘The People’ and is instead a blueprint for companies to pay lower wages and create an increasingly precarious work environment. Ford has cancelled raising the minimum wage hike to $15 an hour and Instead, Ontario’s minimum wage will be frozen until October 1, 2020, at $14 for adult workers, $13.15 for students, and $12.20 for liquor servers. Bill 47 makes it harder for workers to unionize. It eliminates card-based certification for workers in home care and community services, temporary help agencies and the building services industry (which includes food, cleaning, and security services). Most workers return to a two-stage process where 40 per cent of workers must sign cards before a vote is held. The Conservatives will also strip home care and other community workers of their successor rights, forcing them to reapply for their jobs if the contractor they work for changes.
CUPE Ontario is mobilizing with community allies against the move, calling the government out for its anti-worker, anti-union agenda. The changes will hurt all workers and their families, especially those who don’t belong to a union. Worker power, including the power of striking, is at the heart of May Day. CUPE Ontario stands with all workers organizing for safe working conditions, a living wage, benefits and a decent pension, as well as for accessible, affordable public services. We not only fight every day for workers, we are inspired by them. During this unprecedented assault on the workers of Ontario, we have seen an equal and inspired mobilization to stop it. The results are beginning to show, as a recent poll revealed that even in areas of the province with strong support for the PC’s, most people do not believe cuts and privatization are a positive thing for working families.
On this day, it’s important to recognize that we are not alone in this struggle for worker’s rights. The challenges we face in Ontario connects us to the struggles of workers in other parts of Canada, and around the world. We offer thanks for the courage of those workers who have been at the front lines of the battle to protect their most basic rights, and regardless of what new challenges come our way, we will continue to build a resistance that will expose the Ford Conservatives for what they are – a government determined to remove the well deserved protections that workers in Canada have been fighting for since 1819 on the streets of Winnipeg.