(en) report on situation in Ontario

pj (pj@tao.ca)
Thu, 6 Nov 1997 17:52:06 +0000 (GMT)

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the teachers strike continues today, but it looks like the government is going to force through Bill 160 -the act to gut public education funding and centralize control of education in the hands of the right wing tory cabinet. the next few days will be interesting to see the response of a rising mobilized movement to their labour leaders backing away from escalating the fight against the government.

last weekend, i attended a rally and direct action to take back an old empty building downtown toronto. the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty is organizing the growing population of homeless folks to demand a "use it or lose it" against absentee landlords who let their empty buildings rot to raise property values while the poor freeze to death on the streets outside. it is vitally important that we expand the politicization around the education actions to include the struggle against Bill 142 and workfare!

food not bombs is having a good week, as the UnFree Trade Tour is in town, with Keith McHenry and spanish anarchists discussing the polarizing of society by multilateral trade agreements which exclude people and the environment. naomi klein (nklein@ilap.com) also spoke in toronto last night about globalization and organizing labour to resist. she has recently returned from indonesia, and her comments are most useful leading up to the big NO TO APEC fight at the end of this month... media attention will be on Vancouver at this point, and organizers are readying themselves for a strong protest and direct action resistance to neoliberalism.

yesterday in guelph, we shut down two major entrance-ways at the University, with occupiers and a large number of supporters outside. this was a symbolic lockdown, as students could still enter the buildings, but there were speeches and dances, and hundreds of students engaged in conversation or thought about accessibility issues by the demo. the students also demanded of the administration the dropping of the charges against the Guelph 37 -- activists charged through a bogus University judicial process last spring after occupying a corporate-run Board of Governors meeting in an attempt to stop a 10% tuition hike and take back control of the student university centre.

there is a massive student rally building for downtown toronto tomorrow afternoon, in support of the teachers strike.

also at Queens Park, there will be another demo on Saturday, this one bringing in trade union supporters from around the province to reinforce the teachers.

below I have attached one of the leaflets we will be distributing. i will soon have a report on Bill 142 on-line for you.

solidarity in struggle, pj lilley

reporting from guelph Nov. 6, 1997


It's Time to Increase the Pressure

The prospect of a major victory against the Harris government now hangs in the balance. But if we are not to squander this opportunity to deliver a major blow to the whole Harris agenda of cutbacks and downsizing, we will have to escalate the struggle and extend the protest movement.

Every step of the way, the teachers' strike has blown the Tories' plans out of the water. First, teachers demonstrated massive resolve and solidarity by shutting down the province's schools. Next, they swung the majority of public opinion to their side. Then they humiliated the government's attempt to get a strike-ending injunction from the courts. The government has been clearly disoriented and thrown onto the defensive by these developments.

In fact, at no other time during the past two and a half years have the Tories been so much in danger of seeing their agenda go down in flames. For that reason we cannot let them off the hook.

Now is not the time to call off the protest strike. Now is the time to expand it, by calling on unions throughout the province to join in.

A province-wide protest movement could force the government to do what it has so far resisted - gut Bill 160. And the gutting of Bill 160 could galvanize the movement against so many other aspects of the Harris agenda - hospital closings, introduction of workfare, imposition of users' fees on drugs needed by seniors, the hiking of college and university tuitions, cuts to social housing and daycare funding.

Already, some teacher union activists have called on their leaders to request solidarity action by the rest of the labour movement. A meeting of branch presidents and picket captains from District 15 of the Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers Federation voted on Monday (November 3) to urge their union leadership to ask the Ontario Federation of Labour for solidarity action.

Activists in other unions have also taken up the call. The next day, a meeting of the Labour Activities Committee of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (consisting of about 30 local presidents and stewards in Toronto) unanimously passed a resolution which calls on "the OPSEU President and Executive Board to begin immediately to advocate and prepare for province-wide job action by OPSEU members to take place at the request of the teachers' federations."

These activists have put their finger on the burning issue of the moment: the need to broaden the struggle with province-wide strike action to force the Harris government to back off its agenda. It can be done. But time is of the essence. We've got to send a clear message to all the union leaders in the province that now is the time for province-wide strikes to back the teachers. It's time to insure that the teachers' actions result in a real victory against the Harris agenda.

It's Time to Shut the Province Down

This leaflet is produced by the New Socialist Group, an organization of socialist activists in unions, student and community groups dedicated to building the fightback against the Tories as part of the struggle to change society. For more info, write socialists@tao.ca

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