Update on the Fight of Ontario Education Workers

Government Repeals Keeping Students in Class Act

On November 14, the Ontario government repealed Bill 28, the Keeping Students in Class Act, 2022 one week after it had stated it would do so, by passing Bill 35, the Keeping Students in Class Repeal Act, 2022. The bill was introduced by the government House Leader, Paul Calandra. There was no debate or discussion, and it passed through the three readings and votes unanimously by the 100 MPPs present out of a total 124 MPPs. Education Minister Stephen Lecce, who had put forward Bill 28, was not present during the passing of Bill 35. The Keeping Students in Class Repeal Act, 2022 passed Third Reading and is awaiting Royal Assent for it to become law.

Bill 35, the Keeping Students in Class Repeal Act, 2022 states:

"His Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Ontario, enacts as follows:

"Repeal of Act

1. The Keeping Students in Class Act, 2022 is repealed and is deemed for all purposes never to have been in force.

"Collective agreements:

2. For greater certainty, the collective agreements that were deemed to be in operation under subsection 5 (1) of the Keeping Students in Class Act, 2022 are deemed for all purposes never to have come into operation.


3. This Act is deemed to have come into force on November 3, 2022."

No statement was issued by the Premier or Education Minister on the occasion of the repeal of the legislation.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees - Ontario School Board Council of Unions (CUPE-OSBCU) issued a statement which said:

"Today was a win for education workers, students, families and the people of Ontario. While we were happy to be present at the moment Bill 28 was unanimously repealed, what was really missing was each of you -- the workers on the front line who stood bold and brave in the face of a government who imposed a collective agreement and stripped you of your rights. With the Bill gone it's time to focus on achieving a deal that will respect you, your students and the communities you proudly serve."

CUPE OSBCU also informed later in the day that its bargaining team has remained at the table since Bill 28 was repealed. "The government’s position has minimally changed since last week. Our commitment remains to achieve a freely negotiated agreement that respects workers, students and families. At the request of the mediator we will not be providing a full update until [November 15]," CUPE OSBCU said.

CUPE Ontario said that the labour movement's historic pushback showed the government that workers are ready to rise up together in the face of injustice and fight for what is right.

President, Karen Brown of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) said: "The Keeping Students in Class Act, Bill 28, was an unprecedented attack on collective bargaining rights, the likes of which had not been seen in Ontario's history. Today, we celebrate the repeal of this oppressive bill, which was accomplished through the courage of CUPE education workers and the collective power of workers and families across Ontario.

"Had the labour community and our allies not stood up in steadfast solidarity to defend workers' constitutional rights, the Ford government would have moved forward with its draconian legislation. The strength, power and unity of the labour movement should never be underestimated. May this serve as a reminder that the workers, united, will never be defeated.

"Premier Ford was pressured into making the right decision to walk back Bill 28. We hope that, after the events of these last few weeks, the Ford government will focus on negotiating fair agreements that protect public schools, and support students, educators, and other education workers.

"ETFO is prepared to sit down at the bargaining table to 'get it done,' but not at the expense of students and educators in this province. We are prepared to fight for our schools and our future.

"ETFO will continue to advocate for investments needed to maintain our high-quality public education system. We need smaller classes, better supports for students with special education needs, and improved mental health supports.

"One thing is clear: when we take action together, we win.

"There's a lot of work ahead of us, but today, let's celebrate this historic victory for our CUPE colleagues and the working people of Ontario."

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) said, "Today, Ford is expected to introduce legislation to #RepealBill28! A huge win for labour rights. We have shown the power in our collective voice! And we will continue to defend public ed as we bargain for a fair deal for workers."

Provincial and National Unions and Federations

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) declared: BILL 28 IS OFFICIALLY REPEALED! "Thank you to everyone who showed the Ford government what workers' power looks like. Our work is far from done, but we have seen what is possible when we work together. When we fight, we win."

The president of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) who also called on Prime Minister Trudeau to use the police powers of his office and invoke the disallowance clause of the Constitution Act 1867, said that "Canada's unions showed up in force when workers' rights were attacked under Ontario's Bill 28. Our voices were heard, and today the bill has officially been repealed. But we'll be standing by, just in case."

(Photos: TML, OECTA, C-L Paul)

This article was published in
Number 3 - November 15, 2022

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