When we convened for the Ontario Regional Council in December, we were on the heels of one of the Ford Government’s first attacks on workers. We met just as Bill 47 had been adopted, cancelling many of the beneficial changes to minimum wage and employment standards that were previously enacted.
I write to you today because that same government has made announcements that once again, threaten equity and a core belief of the union, that education should be accessible to all without barriers.
On January 17, Minister Merrilee Fullerton announced a series of changes to post-secondary education policy including;
- a funding cut to colleges and universities,
- the elimination of the 6-month grace period for loan repayment, and
- the ability for students to opt-out of so-called “non-essential” non-tuition fees.
This is an obvious case of the provincial government attempting to weaken public post-secondary education and eliminate the opposition in one fell swoop.
The non-essential fees that Ford is targeting include dues to students’ unions. Students’ unions are independent, democratic organizations in Ontario. They deliver vital services and advocacy to members all across the province.
Unifor has a long history of supporting student organizing in Ontario, in Canada, and around the world. Students’ issues are workers’ issues.
In the labour movement, we are all too familiar with the right wing’s twisted language when they talk about “right-to-work” laws. When a union bargains gains for the entire workplace, everyone benefits and everyone pays dues. That’s the principle that underlies the strength and structure of our labour movement.
When students democratically vote in favour of pooling their resources to provide important student-run services on campus, everyone benefits and everyone pays dues. It is this very principle that is being attacked in the latest Ford government announcement.
Not only is Doug Ford making education less accessible for students in Ontario, he is also taking a stab at the only organized force that has ever opposed tuition fee increases and fought for education as a right.
In the weeks ahead, we will be working with our allies from the Canadian Federation of Students to support students in their fight against these devastating changes. Brothers and sisters, I urge you to recognize what’s at stake in this fight: I believe that if the Ford government succeeds in their attack on the student movement, that they will take aim at trade unions as well.
I encourage all members to reach out to students’ unions and to join in the growing resistance, including participating in actions planned in upcoming weeks.
For more information, please see the attached backgrounder.
Ontario Regional Director