December 14, 2017

Defend the Rights of All at Canada Post!

Mediation Talks Break Down
at Canada Post


Defend the Rights of All at Canada Post!
Mediation Talks Break Down at Canada Post
Background Information on Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers

Workers Demand Pro-Social Changes to Employment Insurance
Seasonal Workers on the Acadian Peninsula Fight for Adequate EI Coverage
Unemployed Workers on Quebec's North Shore Require Immediate
Elimination of "Black Hole"

Justice for Injured Workers!
Spirited Outreach Actions in Ontario Affirm Workers' Compensation is a Right!

Teachers and Education Workers Refuse to Submit to Dictate
Nova Scotia Teachers Union Files Charter Challenge
Ontario College Faculty Defend Their Working Conditions
Ontario K-12 Teachers Continue the Fight - Laura Chesnik

Defend the Rights of All at Canada Post!

Mediation Talks Break Down at Canada Post

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) announced in a December 8 news bulletin a breakdown in mediated talks with Canada Post. CUPW says it had hoped that the arbitrator would prompt Canada Post to clarify its position why it will not pay wages to the 8,000 Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMCs) according to the Route Management System. The company refused to explain its views and stuck to its position of an arbitrary system, which results in a two-tier system discriminating against rural and suburban mail carriers. Over 70 per cent of RSMCs are female. The right of RSMCs to achieve at least similar pay, benefits and working conditions as urban mail carriers is not recognized. Meanwhile the wages, benefits and working conditions of urban mail carriers are also under pressure and every effort is made by Canada Post to pit one section of workers against another by suggesting that any improvement to the situation of the RSMCs must come at the expense of the urban workers.

The arbitrator now has the final decision.

The talks have been going on for almost a year following the signing of the contract on December 9, 2016, which contained a Memorandum of Understanding calling for the establishment of a Joint Pay Equity Committee composed of three members from each party. The committee was mandated to investigate the issue of "gender based wage discrimination" as it concerned the RSMC group and to provide appropriate remedies.

The position of CUPW on RSMC wages is that they should be "based on time values set out in the Route Management System (RMS). Routes are built using RMS values and the resulting pay is established based on activity values outlined in the collective agreement. The CUPW bulletin states:

"Although the time value assigned to each route can vary depending on the activity values, the pay will be proportionate to the assigned time. RSMCs in the same zone receive an identical base salary for an identical number of hours.

"This is the equivalent of an hourly rate and, accordingly, the best way to assess the wage gap between RSMCs and the male-dominate[d] groups [within Canada Post]."

CUPW points out that Canada Post is hypocritical in refusing to use the Route Management System for wages as the company uses it "to create routes, pay employees, calculate pension benefits, and record hours for employment insurance purposes."

Canada Post refuses to use the RMS for wages so it can arbitrarily enforce lower wages on RSMCs. This unjust attack is consistent with Canada Post's actions against postal workers throughout the corporation.

At this time the Union is also at the beginning stages of negotiations with Canada Post as the contracts of both RSMC and Urban Units are expiring at the end of this year. On December 4, 2017, the Union’s negotiating committee met with the corporation to present opening statements on the program of demands and the corporation did the same.

In recent years, Canada Post executives and the federal government have been engaged in a campaign to impose a two-tier wage system throughout the corporation to split postal workers and weaken their collective fight in defence of the rights of all. The corporation now has workers working side by side who are not paid the same basic wage, benefits and pensions. In addition, they are eliminating urban letter carrier positions, undermining the existing letter carrier RMS, extending routes, and turning new routes into RSMC routes at lower wages making the lives of letter carriers more and more difficult.

Driving down the wages, benefits and working conditions of all postal workers and increasing not decreasing different tiers of workers and their terms of employment are creating conditions for Canada Post to seize more of the value workers produce as a prelude to privatization of the most profitable sections of postal services.

Stand with Postal Workers in Their Just Struggle Against Privatization
and to Defend Their Rights!

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Background Information on Rural and
Suburban Mail Carriers

Eight thousand Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMCs) deliver mail in rural and suburban areas. Seventy per cent are women.

Roughly 50 per cent of RSMCs work out of offices with urban letter carriers and postal clerks. The rest work with rural postmasters who belong to the 12,000 member Canadian Postmasters and Assistants Association (CPAA) directly affiliated with the Canadian Labour Congress.

On September 30, 2003, RSMCs dramatically changed their working conditions for the better upon ratifying a collective agreement with Canada Post as members of CUPW. They had forced Canada Post to recognize them as employees organized within a union rather than as independent contractors in the precarious position of constantly renewing their contracts without the collective power of an organization.

When considered individual contractors and not employees, Canada Post kept RSMCs in a vulnerable position resulting in low wages, no benefits, miserable working conditions and no security of employment. As independent contractors, Canada Post often told the RSMCs to accept a contract for less money or else they would lose their route and their job. As contractors, RSMCs had to pay for their own vehicle, gas and other material value consumed during their work-time. Responsible for much of the fixed and circulating transferred-value consumed during their work-time, which was not fully returned to them, and saddled with a precarious working arrangement with Canada Post, many RSMCs consistently earned minimum wage or less.

Their first collective agreement as members of CUPW came into effect on January 1, 2004. Since then, RSMCs through collective class struggle for their rights have waged a constant battle to improve their wages, benefits, pensions and working conditions and bring them to a Canadian standard. The current collective agreement expires on December 31, 2017.

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Workers Demand Pro-Social Changes to Employment Insurance

Seasonal Workers on the Acadian Peninsula
Fight for Adequate EI Coverage

More than 300 workers fighting for adequate employment insurance attended a public meeting on Sunday, December 10 in Inkerman, on the Acadian Peninsula. Workers in the area make their living in seasonal industries and face a "black hole" during the off-season in which they do not receive employment insurance either. According to media reports, the meeting in the presence of Liberal MP Serge Cormier was quite tense because workers no longer want to hear statements like "we understand your situation" from those who claim to represent them. The workers circulated a petition to increase pressure on the federal government to ease the eligibility criteria for the employment insurance program. Among other things, they are asking that the number of hours worked to receive benefits be decreased from 490 to 360.

Workers are challenging the arbitrariness and injustice of the employment insurance regime. Unemployed workers deserve compensation which permits them to live at the Canadian standard. It is not the workers who destroyed the manufacturing sector in their regions or who created instability in the economy. The standard of living of workers and communities must be supported as a matter of justice and redress from a system that does not provide a means of subsistence to all. This is what the federal government is seeking to avoid with its consultations and statements that it "understands the situation of the unemployed." It wants to find ways to maintain the arbitrariness of the regime and entrench the displacement of workers in the name of what it calls "labor mobility," "flexibility" and other high-sounding expressions. What it means is the uprooting of people so that they are a disposable labour force which benefits the monopolies.

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Unemployed Workers on Quebec's North Shore Require Immediate Elimination of "Black Hole"

A demonstration was held in Forestville on Quebec's North Shore on November 24 to demand that the federal government stop dithering with its phony consultations and immediately adopt measures that will stop the increased impoverishment of the population of the North Shore, particularly the unemployed. The event, organized jointly by the Action-Chômage Committee of the region, the National Council of the Unemployed (CNC) and the Central Council of CSN Côte-Nord (CCCN-CSN), was preceded by a press briefing to present the main immediate demand of the people of the region: a threshold of 420 hours of work to qualify for 30 weeks of employment insurance benefits. The event was attended by people from throughout the North Shore, as well as members of Parliament, mayors and prefects.

The protest had a particularly urgent tone as official federal statistics show that the unemployment rate in the Lower St. Lawrence-North Shore Employment Insurance Economic Region fell to 6.9 per cent in November compared to 8.9 per cent in May. The consequence is that the qualifying threshold for employment insurance has risen in this region from 595 hours worked for 18 weeks of benefits, which is already unbearable, to 665 hours worked for 15 weeks of benefits. This means that more workers will simply be excluded from EI benefits. What workers call the "black hole," the period when an unemployed worker has no income after having exhausted EI benefits and not yet back to seasonal work, will become even longer. This means greater impoverishment, more debt, more stress and more exodus from the region.

The protesters had a lot to say about the absurdity of the statistic that unemployment has fallen on Quebec's North Shore, and particularly on the Upper North Shore where the work is mainly seasonal and which is facing a pronounced exodus of workers. November is actually part of the off-season. How could unemployment fall? The exodus of workers itself becomes a factor in artificially "lowering" the unemployment rate because one of the criteria for being considered unemployed is to be actively seeking work. With the exodus of workers, the number "actively seeking work" goes down. This arbitrary categorization of EI economic regions, in which regions that are very different industry-wise are mixed and with arbitrary averages that have nothing to do with the actual situation of the unemployed and the regional economy, shows how irrational the EI system is. With this arbitrary designation and the consequences for unemployed workers, the economic situation of these communities has taken a new hit with the stroke of a pen. The demand for 420 hours of work for 30 weeks of benefits aims to reduce this arbitrariness, to affirm the reality of the living conditions and to fight against their continual deterioration.

Workers' Forum spoke with Line Sirois, coordinator of Action-Chômage Côte-Nord after the demonstration on November 24, about their actions. She first mentioned how proud she was that people from all over the region attended, and that Members of Parliament, Members of the National Assembly and several prefects and mayors were present. She added:

"We want people to qualify for 30 weeks of employment insurance after 420 hours of work, and that this measure apply retroactively from last July. That would immediately add weeks of EI benefits and avoid the black hole after the holidays. We are building a coalition in all the regions of eastern Quebec to present the same demands. The Minister does not need to consult and we do not want the consultation to result in some triviality that we will be given before the next election. This immediate problem can be easily fixed. The government has made more than $2 billion in surplus in the employment insurance fund each year over the last two years. That money belongs to the unemployed. It should not be diverted to the general revenues of the government as it is currently done. It has to go back to us."

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Justice for Injured Workers!

Spirited Outreach Actions in Ontario Affirm
Workers' Compensation is a Right!

Injured workers in communities around Ontario including Toronto, Hamilton, Barrie, London, Windsor, Chatham and Thunder Bay held pickets, rallies and outreach actions on December 11, demanding that the right to full compensation of all workers injured and made ill at work be met.

The actions were organized by the Ontario Network of Injured Workers' Groups as part of building their province-wide campaign "Workers' Comp Is a Right." This year, to assist in the mobilizing work, the Christmas demonstration, which has been held at the Ministry of Labour and Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) in Toronto for the past 25 years, was replaced by local actions. The Christmas theme highlighted the hardships faced by injured workers and their families during the holidays, as well as their impoverishment throughout the year.

In Toronto, injured workers and their allies gathered at busy Dundas Square during the lunch hour for a rally and outreach blitz informing people about the campaign and gathering signatures for their petition. Injured workers were joined by fellow workers from the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Ontario Public Service Employees Union, and the United Steelworkers, among others, and a contingent from the Workers' Centre of CPC(M-L). The Toronto Raging grannies joined in with their rewrites of Christmas carols such as "Deck the Halls with Workers' Rights."

Speakers denounced the escalating efforts of the WSIB to deny workers' claims for compensation based on so-called "pre-existing conditions" -- conditions which, as one speaker noted, had never stopped workers from doing their jobs -- but once injured are used to deny them compensation to which they are entitled. Examples were given of how the WSIB is refusing to listen to the injured workers' treating physicians, instead relying on WSIB's "paper doctors" to deny claims. Injured workers spoke out on the injustice of terminating coverage for injured workers at age 65, at a time when what they require is more medical assistance, not to be left to fend for themselves. Following the brief rally the participants disbersed to the four corners of the intersection to hand out flyers and speak to passersby about the Workers' Comp Is a Right campaign.

In Barrie, injured workers and supporters gathered at the Service Ontario building, where injured workers end up applying to the Ontario Disability Support Program for assistance when their appeals are denied by the WSIB or they are forced to wait for years to have appeals heard. Injured workers were joined by workers organized in the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Service Ontario's response was to call the police in a failed attempt to have the injured workers removed from a public sidewalk to silence their voices.


In Hamilton injured workers and allies distributed outside Jackson Square Mall, in Windsor, London and Niagara they picketed and sung justice for injured worker themed Christmas carols outside of the WSIB offices, in Thunder Bay they picketed the local MPP's office and in London and Niagara they picketed WSIB offices.

Thunder Bay

Everywhere, the spirited actions expressed the determination of injured workers to succeed in their just fight, which is a fight for the right of all working people to have the security that if they are injured or made ill at work they will be taken care of.






(Photos: Workers' Forum, ONIWG, London Occupy WSIB)

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Teachers and Education Workers Refuse to Submit to Dictate

Nova Scotia Teachers Union Files Charter Challenge 

On November 23 court proceedings began for the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) Charter Challenge against the Liberal government of Nova Scotia for legislation it used to impose contracts in February of 2017. The challenge asserts that the McNeil government's Bill 75, Teachers' Professional Agreement and Classroom Improvements Act violates the right to freedom of association and the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The NSTU stated that Bill 75 "substantially interfered with the collective bargaining process and infringed the right to strike in violation of (their freedom of association)."

The union adds that their members' right to belief, opinion and expression as guaranteed under the Charter is violated by the bill's infringement on the teachers' right to protest or strike.

The NSTU asserts that the conduct of the government before, during and after the failed negotiation of the teachers' contract "failed to respect a process of meaningful and good faith consultation and negotiation."

"We are committed to doing whatever is necessary to ensure that the right to free and fair collective bargaining is restored for teachers in Nova Scotia. We believe the government failed to bargain in good faith as required under the charter and interfered in the collective bargaining process," said Liette Doucet, president of the NSTU, in an emailed statement.

Tina Thibeau, the province's acting director of media relations stated: "We stand by the legislation and believe that it will hold up to a court challenge."

When it was enacted the legislation and the government's threat to lock teachers and students out of their classes was met with massive outrage from the teachers and the general population who sided with the teachers, culminating in a one-day strike outside the legislature and across the province, the first time Nova Scotia teachers had ever been on a full-out strike in the province's 122-year history.

Of note is that up to the point of the contract being imposed, teachers had rejected three tentative agreements in 14 months -- all under the threat of an imposed contract -- because the agreements did not address key matters relating to class size and composition and salaries.

The NTSU is also part of another Charter challenge brought forward by seven unions against the McNeil government's Bill 148 which in September of this year imposed wages for the next four years on 75,000 public sector employees across the province.

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Ontario College Faculty Defend
Their Working Conditions

Ongoing developments in the college education sector reveal that the Ontario Liberal government's use of dictate, far from resolving any problems, has only made matters worse for students, faculty and the college system itself.

Hundreds of grievances or workload complaints have been filed across the province after the government forced an end to the strike without any return-to-work protocols in place, including how to make up the five weeks of lost instructional time and how the increased faculty workload would be determined and compensated. Bill 178 merely called for the terms of the existing collective agreement, which expired in September, to be followed until a new one is reached. That agreement limits full-time faculty to 44 hours per week and ends the fall semester on December 15. Faculty have had to put in extra hours in make-up time without guarantee of being paid overtime or being paid at all for increased workloads.

This situation has given rise to chaos and stress for faculty and students alike. CBC reported that by December 2 there had been 45 grievances filed at one college alone. At La Cité Collegiale in Ottawa, four professors were suspended without pay because they could not in good conscience sign a commitment guaranteeing that students in their program will have acquired all the necessary competencies with instructional time being cut by three weeks.[1]

In midst of all this, students contending with the uncertainties of successfully completing the semester, often while also trying to hold down jobs, had to decide whether to proceed or withdraw and apply for a tuition refund without being guaranteed readmission for the next semester should spaces be filled. On December 12, the government gave a preliminary figure of 25,700 full-time students having withdrawn since November 1. Figures were not released for part-time student withdrawals. CBC reported December 7 that 1,528 had withdrawn from Centennial College in Toronto, 1,890 from Fanshawe College in London, 1,200 each from St. Clair College in Windsor and Conestoga College in Kitchener, and 852 from Seneca College in Toronto.

Students have also raised complaints over the inadequacy and unfairness of the "financial aid" offered by the province to those students who can provide proof of having suffered hardship due to the strike, as well as other matters related to withdrawal from courses and the return to class, how this affects payments on student loans and more.

A recently formed group called Ontario Students United has called a province-wide walkout at colleges on Friday, December 14 at noon over the problems many students now face.[2] Their demands include:

- $500 to be paid out to all students from the "relief fund" instead of just those who can "prove" hardship.

- Refunds to students who have withdrawn to include all services fees, facility fees, parking and any others fees not mentioned, in addition to tuition.

- Fairness for international students who were not allowed to work during the strike, in the form of special payment plans given the very high fees they pay. Some were allegedly pressured by colleges not to withdraw using the threat of potentially losing their visas.

Students are also being invited to join a class action lawsuit launched against the colleges for breach of contract and breach of the Ontario Consumer Protection Act.[3]

Mediation-Arbitration Under Back-to-Work Legislation Begins

The Ontario Public Service Employees' Union (OPSEU), representing faculty in the provinces' 24 colleges, reports that the union and the College Employer Council have agreed on William Kaplan as mediator-arbitrator. Kaplan will mediate "negotiations" for a new collective agreement or, if that is not possible, he will impose one within the parameters dictated in Bill 178, the Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Labour Dispute Resolution Act, the back-to-work legislation the Liberals and PCs passed to end the strike.[4]

Beginning December 12, the College Employer Council and OPSEU filed briefs on disputed issues. Kaplan will meet with union representatives December 14 and employer representatives December 15. Two days of mediation are to follow on December 16 and 17. If a new collective agreement is not reached through mediation, arbitration of unresolved matters is expected to begin in early to mid-January. Bill 178 directs the arbitrator to finalize the new collective agreement no later than 90 days after being appointed, though the deadline can be extended if both parties agree. Meanwhile, OPSEU's court challenge to Bill 178 based on the bill's violation of faculty rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms will proceed.


1. "Four Ontario Faculty Suspended for Refusing to Submit to College Dictate" Workers' Forum, December 7, 2017

2. See Ontario Students United on Facebook.

3. See here for information on class action.

4. William Kaplan is a lawyer who works as a mediator and arbitrator. He is also an author who has written numerous books. His most recent book, Why Dissent Matters, was released in June and has received considerable attention in Canadian media.

On Kaplan's website there is a long list of cases that he has arbitrated either alone or as part of a three-person board. Most are interest arbitration cases (as opposed to grievance arbitration). Many are in education, health care and other public sector fields. He was the arbitrator appointed to impose an agreement in 2006 after an 18-day strike by Ontario college faculty did not result in a negotiated settlement between OPSEU and the colleges at that time either.

In August 2016, he was appointed to intervene as a "special mediator" between the Canadian Union of Post Workers and Canada Post at a time when postal workers had threatened to strike in support of their contract demands. The agreement that was reached is the one currently in force. He was also appointed as mediator by the Nova Scotia government after it intervened to end an 18-month strike by reporters, photographers, editors and support staff at the Halifax Chronicle Herald, which had continued publishing using scabs.

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Ontario K-12 Teachers Continue the Fight 

Teachers and education workers rally outside Liberal Party leadership conference in Toronto,
January 26, 2013.

As 2017 comes to an end, Ontario teachers and education workers continue to fight for their rights. On December 9, elementary teachers and other education professionals organized into the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) launched a social media campaign to commemorate the beginning of their province-wide strikes five years ago on December 10. It coincides with another round of mediated talks with the government over a remedy after the courts affirmed that it violated fundamental freedoms in the 2012 round of negotiations. Those negotiations were ended by the government when it imposed contracts through legislation.

The strikes in 2012 were a direct challenge to the threats to pass legislation that permitted the government to impose contracts and refuse to negotiate. Billions of dollars were taken out of public education mainly through the government's cuts to sick days. Thousands of ETFO members and supporters engaged in those actions which hit almost every town and city in the province and involved much of the population in saying No! to dictate and attacks on workers' rights.

Slideshow produced by Greater Essex EFTO celebrates 5 years of resistance to dictate and defending workers' rights.
Click on image to view video.

The social media campaign began with a slide show produced by the Greater Essex ETFO unit. It has now expanded, with each district tweeting and posting pictures of their strike day during the 2012 rotating strikes. The slide show itself has been viewed some 3,500 times and counting and is actively being shared across the province and country with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, the Canadian Teachers' Federation and others who are sharing it with their members.

The campaign is assisting teachers and education workers and those they are linked with to recall their direct experience in standing up for their rights in 2012. This is something the so-called major political parties would rather the teachers and education workers forget as Ontario goes into the 2018 election year.

Reports now inform that mediation on December 9 and 10 has failed to produce an agreed remedy for Bill 115 between ETFO and the government, and that the same judge who ruled in favour of the unions before will be forced to decide on a remedy -- something the parties originally requested he not do in order to try and come up with a remedy themselves (see below). The government will now also be forced to speak to its egregious violation of rights in open court. Meanwhile, it is trying to confuse matters by suggesting that there is a progressive version of the anti-social neo-liberal austerity agenda.

Information on the Mediation Process

Unions representing teachers and education workers in Ontario who were involved in the 2012 provincial negotiations in the K-12 education sector in 2012 launched a court challenge arguing that the government at the time violated their right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to collective bargaining. The 2012 round of provincial negotiations culminated with the government using Bill 115, the Putting Students First Act, to impose contracts that stripped billions out of public education. At the time, Ontario had a minority government in which the McGuinty Liberals were one seat shy of a majority. The Hudak Progressive Conservatives sided with the Liberals to ensure the government could pass the bill.

The court eventually affirmed that the Ontario government violated the Charter rights of those involved. Justice Thomas Lederer, released his decision on April 20, 2016. In his ruling, Lederer left it up to those who challenged Bill 115 to try to arrive at a remedy with the government outside of the court but if that failed, he would decide the remedy. He however gave his unsolicited opinion to impose a definite framework within which those whose rights were violated should approach talks with the government to try to agree on a remedy. He told them that if they could not come to an agreement outside of the court he would not likely redress the wrong that was done. Thus, instead of resolving matters the judge set a tone for the mediated talks that would follow to ensure the government's neo-liberal austerity agenda was maintained. He said that, "The fact remains that Ontario was and may still be in a difficult fiscal circumstance. If so, we are all affected. Ontario accepted that it should act. The problem with what took place is with the process, not the end result. It is possible that had the process been one that properly respected the associational rights of the unions, the fiscal and economic impacts of the result would have been the same or similar to those that occurred." [...]

"At the moment (without having heard any submissions), it is not clear to me what would be accomplished by any substantial or overly aggressive remedy. Could it reward one side to the detriment of the process as a whole? We are all still learning."[1]

The Liberal government then proceeded to launch a two-pronged attempt to avoid accountability for its actions. First it offered the unions involved the option of extending their existing contracts beyond the next provincial election on the condition that there be no local bargaining. At the same time it offered certain monetary measures as a remedy to the court case. Although these were really two separate tracks they took place at the same time. All the unions in K-12 education negotiated extension agreements with the government, eliminating local bargaining, while all but the ETFO also came to an agreement on a remedy. In June, ETFO announced it had been unsuccessful in reaching a remedy with the government. EFTO President Sam Hammond stated: "ETFO's Provincial Executive has decided that the principle of fair remedy for the losses suffered by ETFO members due to Bill 115 needs to be honoured. What the government has proposed doesn't address that principle."

In accordance with the 2016 court ruling on Bill 115 if the parties were unable to come to an agreement between themselves the remedy was to be sent back to Justice Lederer for a decision. However, instead of ruling, which would have required the parties making their cases publicly on what they felt an appropriate remedy would be, re-exposing all that had been done during that period of dictate, Lederer sent ETFO and the government to mediation. December 9 and 10 were the dates set for mediation. Reports indicate that the talks have ended without an agreement on a remedy and it will now go back to the judge for a ruling.


1. See "Court Ruling on Ontario's Bill 115: Teachers and Education Workers Win Another Battle for Rights" Ontario Political Forum, April 25, 2016.

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