CAW Says Attack on Public Sector Workers' Collective Bargaining Rights Unfair

July 20, 2010, 5:00 PM EST

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Coming out of a consultation with Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan and other Ontario public sector unions this afternoon, the CAW is criticizing the government's attempt to attack the collective bargaining rights of public sector workers and the important services these workers provide right across the province.

"To suggest that the provincial deficit should be borne by public sector workers is tremendously short-sighted and unfair," said CAW President Ken Lewenza. "Ontario can only get out of a deficit position by growing the economy, not by making it even more precarious. This will in no way protect services as the province is claiming."

Lewenza said that the union recognizes the difficulty the province is facing due to the loss of jobs and the impact of the financial crisis but insists that the cost cannot be borne almost wholly by workers.

Under its austerity program, intended to cut into what is projected to be a $21 billion deficit, the provincial government is zeroing in on workers in the education, civil service and health care sectors, a move Lewenza said is unwarranted and will further stall what is already a fragile economic recovery.

The union is also condemning the government's approach to hospital funding, cut back this year with many facilities facing severe funding shortfalls and even closures in some communities.

Lewenza said the Public Sector Compensation Restraint to Protect Public Services Act is having far-reaching implications even into the for-profit long term care sector, which employs thousands of CAW members. "For-profit providers such as Extendicare and Revera are now demanding wage restraints and threatening lay-offs despite the fact that the province recently announced $157 million in new funding for the long term care homes sector."

"This is already a sector characterized by low wages, long working hours and staffing shortages. Too many people working in this sector, predominantly women, have to string together two part time jobs in order to provide for themselves and their families. Our message to the province and to these private sector employers is that we will not tolerate this wage freeze."

Today's consultation was the first of a number of others to follow. Lewenza said that the union plans to continue meeting with the government to arrive at a solution which precludes placing the burden directly on public sector workers and the important public services these workers provide.

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