Bill C-59: The Conservative government’s crossed the line

June 03, 2015

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Over 100 public service employees picketed the Prime Minister’s Office, on June 1st, to express their opposition to Bill C-59. The Conservative government is using the budget bill to bypass collective bargaining and implement changes to public service employees’ sick leave provisions.

“Last week, it was raining. It didn’t stop us from being here,” said National President Emmanuelle Tremblay to a windswept crowd.  “Today, the winds of change are blowing.”

Tremblay called the government’s intentions unprecedented. The budget bill, if passed, would effectively abolish rights that were agreed upon during collective bargaining by. 

“Imagine you buy a house; six years down the road, the former owner comes back and says ‘You know what? I’d like to take my swimming pool back. I’d like to take my shed back.”

“That’s what this bill does. We cannot let that pass. We need to stand up and fight back.”

CAPE is banding together with other public-sector unions to fight the attacks on our collective bargaining rights. Furthermore, we fully intend on challenging the constitutionality of Bill C-59.

Ontario’s teachers suffered the same plight

During the demonstration, Dan Maxwell, President of the Ottawa-Carleton district of the Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation, shared his members’ experience with the same type of attack on sick leave. Under the McGuinty government, teachers lost their ability to bank sick leave credits and saw their sick leave allotment legislated out of their collective agreements. Instead, the government saddled them a short-term disability plan.

Teachers saw their yearly allotment of sick leave drop from 20 days paid at 100% to just six days, with an additional 120 days paid at 66%. Later, the legislation was repealed; a memorandum of understanding was reached, which expanded the sick leave provisions to 11 days paid at 100%, with an additional 120 days paid at 90%.

“While the repeal of the legislation occurred, the damage was already done,” said Maxwell. “We continue our fight in the courts over the constitutionality of the legislation.”

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation is hopeful that recent decisions may pave the way for a more positive solution.

“The ability to retain freely negotiated collective agreement provisions is one we share and one which must be fought for at all costs,” Maxwell concluded.

On June 4th, CAPE will be joined by other public-sector unions to testify before the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Finance, where the budget bill will be discussed.

Our next demonstration before the Prime Minister’s Office will take place at noon on Monday, June 8. Please join us in a show of solidarity – and please bring your friends and colleagues!