Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology support staff, represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees' Union, went on strike on September 1 to defend full time jobs and to challenge the threat of a two-tier system for benefits. Both kinds of management attacks have dire implications for all public sector workers.
Management's concession demands would further isolate and impoverish young workers who make up a large proportion of the 8000 strong OPSEU CAAT-S (College Support) members who work in 24 colleges across the province. Their sick leave would be limited to ten days a year, with no carry-over or accumulation of unused days. The workers are in collective bargaining with the province and now operate under legislation which allows the employer to use scab labour for the first time. Intimidation and coercion are being used against workers already suffering from the biggest economic recession in recent memory.
The Chair of the CAAT Support Bargaining Team, Rod Bemister, reported on the OPSEU web site: "This round of bargaining is not about us getting ahead; it is about us staying even. It’s about holding onto the job security, benefits and pay that others before us fought to get. It’s about keeping good jobs, not just for right now, but for the future. We care too much for our students and the future of Ontario to allow the workforce to be filled with jobs that are part time, insecure, and low paying."
Members across the province gave the bargaining team a 77 per cent strike mandate. Clearly, those workers were prepared to back their demands with action. They did not flinch in the face of management's obstinacy. Socialists, campaigning in support of the college workers, say: End corporate tax breaks, tax the rich, defend full-time jobs, and demand equal pay and benefits for equal work!
> The article above was written by Julius Arscott.