(WINDSOR, ON) – Only a few days after community college students across the province, including those locally at St Clair College, returned to their classes, the union representing the formerly striking college professors says it will file Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge. The Ontario Public Service Employees Union will seek to have the back-to-work legislation passed by Queen’s Park set aside.
OPSEU is upset with Bill 178, which ended what had been a five-week strike on November 19. Union president Warren (Smokey) Thomas says the law violated the Charter, specifically Section 2(d), which protects freedom of association.
“The Supreme Court of Canada has viewed collective bargaining as a protected right under the Charter,” said Thomas. “More recently, the court has extended that protection to the right to strike. In the case of the colleges, the provincial government had the power to direct the employer to make the moves necessary to bargain a settlement.”
Instead of the government directing the College Employer Council’s bargaining unit to conclude the strike at the bargaining table, Thomas is accusing the government of choosing legislation. By doing so, he says it, “trampled on the right to collective bargaining when they clearly had other choices.”
On November 16, hours after 86 per cent of college faculty had rejected the CEC contract offer, Ontario’s premier, Kathleen Wynne, met with both sides and gave them three hours to settle the strike. Because of this, Thomas charges, the government did not give, “collective bargaining an honest chance after the contract was rejected.”
“That three-hour deadline was a sham designed to provide legal cover for legislation that was already a foregone conclusion,” said Thomas. “Instead of directing the colleges to settle, the government let them walk away from the table, then came back with a hammer.”
Bill 178 gave OPSEU and the colleges 90 days to settle the current contract dispute at arbitration. Thomas did not say what his Union will do if it is successful in the Charter challenge.