STOP Back to Work Legislation in Toronto

From: Trevor Cunnington
Subject: Letters Responding to Back to Work Legislation
Received: Friday, December 5, 2008, 1:11 PM

Dear colleagues,

As you are likely aware a private members’ bill has been put forth in the
Ontario Legislature that would force us back to work – a PFD version of the bill is attached to this email. As this bill was proposed by a conservative MPP (Peter Shurman, Thornhill) and December 11th is the last day before the legislature breaks for the Holiday’s it is highly unlikely to receive royal accent. However, the Liberals (majority party) do not seem overly opposed to this back to work legislation (or back to work legislation in general) and if a bill were proposed by the Liberals it could pass through the legislature in a matter of hours.

It is exceedingly important that we as union mobilize against this specific bill, the potential for future legislation and the apparent willingness of this Provincial Government to legislate workers expressing their collective rights to strike and to a fair bargaining process back to work, thereby abrogating those rights.

To this extent, members of the Sentinel Line have prepared a series of
letters expressing opposition to the back to work legislation that can be sent by CUPE 3903 members, undergraduate students and allied and supporting union members. Each letter can be sent as is or serve as a template – so please edit and revise as you see fit. These letters can be mailed as a hard copy or as an email – although email is likely the most effective method. Along with these letters a document containing the names (hyperlinked to contact info) of GTA MPPs, pertinent Ministers and an email list for all Liberal MPPs is attached
to this email.

It is very important that we let the Provincial Government know, through as many incarnations as possible, that back to work legislation is completely unacceptable. And it is particularly important that we mobilize the undergraduate support in order to counter undergraduates lobbying for this bill. It is key that as many MPPs as possible are made aware that CUPE 3903, York undergrads and CUPE and union supporters at large oppose any and all back to work legislation. Here is the link for MPPs by region that you can also send to your students:
ontla.on.ca

In sol,
Trevor Cunnington
Unit 1, Communications and Culture
Judith Deitch
Unit 2, English
Chris Hendershot
Unit 1, Political Science

Trevor Cunnington
theinvisibletruth.blogspot.com

The Proposed Back to Work Legislation, PDF

Sample Letters
1.
STUDENT
Dear [name of MPP],

I am a student at York University currently affected by the strike of CUPE 3903. While I am being hurt by the cancellation of classes I want you to know that I do not support the proposed back-to-work legislation that would forcefully end the current job action of CUPE 3903 at York University.

The current strike of 3300 teaching assistants, graduate assistants and contract faculty is part of the protected democratic process and a legal protest against unfair employment practices at York University. The demands for fair employment include the following:

– adequate funding for graduate students to enable them to complete their degrees, including indexation to cover cost of living expenses;
– job security and pay increase for contract faculty in a spirit of pay equity.

Post-secondary education is becoming less and less accessible due to the high price-tag, turning it into a consumer commodity that leaves young people with a huge burden of debt, rather than allowing them to develop their minds and personal integrity.

Back-to-work legislation would be unfair to the expression of basic rights of our democracy and set a dangerous example, interfering in the dialogue between the two sides. You can help promote this process by asking the York administration to bargain in good faith, working together to find a fair and equitable resolution so I can go back to class as soon as possible.

I want to continue my education at York in classes with teachers who are treated fairly in terms of their pay and working conditions.

Sincerely,

2.
CUPE
Dear [name of MPP]

As your constituent I am writing to ask you to vote against any back-to-work legislation that would be tabled in the Ontario Legislature aimed at forcefully ending the current job action of CUPE 3903 at York University.

The current strike of 3300 teaching assistants, graduate assistants and contract faculty is part of the protected democratic process and a legal protest against unfair employment practices at York University. Our demands for fair employment include the following:

– equitable pay increase for teaching assistants to cover cost-of-living increases, claw-backs in tuition fees, and increased pressure on funds due to higher enrollment in graduate studies, something supported by the provincial government;
– job security and pay increase for contract faculty in a spirit of pay equity for employees who have the same qualifications and do the same work as tenured faculty, but are underpaid to a value of 6 to 1, according to a statement of the Vice President Academic of the University.

Our job action is not aimed merely at our own minimal monetary gain—no matter how equitable—but will raise awareness about the alarming increase in the use of casual labour in the education sector. This issue affects a wide cross-section of the population. Particularly in post-secondary education, the government-backed growth of student enrollment coupled with many long years of government underfunding for the hiring of teachers has led to an untenable situation. Graduate students have to bear the brunt of underfunded graduate growth, while contract faculty are imprisoned as an underclass in a profession that tacitly accepts a two-tier system for university teaching.

Back-to-work legislation would severely curtail the expression of our rights to democratic process and set a dangerous precedent which intervenes in the process of open negotiation. Our union is prepared to engage in meaningful exchange with our employer and has the full support of the membership to act in a flexible way. You can help promote this democratic process by asking the York administration to bargain with us in good faith, working together to find a fair and equitable solution that we know can be reached by joint discussion.

In my weeks of picketing I have been very impressed with the general support of those people I have spoken with going into the University. I feel strongly that any such proposed legislation would be a threat not only to our membership but to a wider community of support.

Sincerely,
Name
Postal code

3.
UNION
Dear [name of MPP]

As your constituent I am writing to ask you to vote against back-to-work legislation as proposed in a private member’s bill that will receive second reading on December 11th in the Ontario Legislature. This bill is aimed at forcefully ending the current job action of CUPE 3903 at York University.

Such legislation would set an unfair precedent for university administrations across Ontario in their negotiations with unions. Categorically, the capacity of provincial university unions to bargain with their employers would be fundamentally reduced. There are over a quarter of a million public sector workers in Ontario at present, and this strike has the strong support of many union leaders who spoke publicly at the rally on December 3rd, including YUFA (York University Faculty Association), OPSEU (Ontario Public Service Employees Union), CUPE Ontario, OSSTF (Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation), ETFO (Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario).

While there are 50,000 students at York affected by the strike, it is essential to remember that hundreds of thousands of students in Ontario would be negatively affected by any decision regarding back-to-work legislation later on. Student-teacher ratios have risen dangerously as a result of the Administrations’ decisions that have reduced or frozen hiring of full-time faculty. This has led to increased class size, unfairly placing the burden of teaching on the shoulders of the graduate students and contract faculty, and reducing the quality of education.

The current strike of 3300 teaching assistants, graduate assistants and contract faculty is a legal protest against unfair employment practices at York University, including demands for adequate funding for graduate students indexed to cover graduate growth in enrollment and cost of living increases; and job security and more equitable pay for contract faculty. The job action is not aimed only at monetary gain—no matter how equitable—but will raise awareness about the alarming increase in the use of casual labour in the education sector. These issues of equitable pay and job security affect a wide cross-section of the population. Post-secondary education has become less and less accessible due to the high price-tag, turning it into a consumer commodity that leaves young people with an onerous burden of debt, rather than allowing them to develop their minds.

As a member of [name of union] I feel strongly that any such proposed legislation would be a threat not only to the membership of CUPE 3903 but to a wider community of unionized voters.

Sincerely,
Name
Postal code

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