Workers Occupy Legislature After Bill to Ban Replacement Workers Defeated

Queen's Park - Union members and their supporters are refusing to leave the legislature following the Ontario government's defeat of legislation to ban the use of replacement workers during strikes and lockouts.

The workers and their supporters say they won't leave until they can meet with Premier Dalton McGuinty.

"Dalton McGuinty's failure to ensure second-reading passage of Bill 45 means lengthy labour disputes in this province are doomed to continue as companies refuse to negotiate and continue to operate by using contracted replacement workers," says United Steelworkers' Ontario Director Wayne Fraser, who is leading the sit-in at Queen's Park.

Bill 45, sponsored by MPP France Gélinas (NDP Nickel Belt), would ban the growing practice of hiring replacement workers to avoid collective bargaining.

"The very nature of labour relations is altered by this well-planned and financed practice, and workers and communities suffer as a result," said Fraser. He pointed to the year-long strike against Brazilian mining giant Vale and several multi-year disputes in Toronto, Nanticoke and Brantford, to name a few.

"McGuinty is saying to all of Ontario that workers' right to free and fair collective bargaining is no longer valid. He has set the stage for a Wisconsin-style attack against every unionized worker in Ontario. He needs to tell us why he has chosen insecurity over community-building, and therefore what is he prepared to do to solve these terrible and unnecessary strikes and lockouts.

Fraser said McGuinty is lying when he says his government has restored balance and fairness to Ontario labour relations.

"That is an absolute load of crap," said Fraser. "The truth is that current public policy does not protect citizens, and the state of labour relations in this province has instead forced people into bankruptcy, prompted family breakdown and worse.

"That is why we will not leave this place until there is an obvious and stated commitment to do the right thing."

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Wayne Fraser, USW, 416-577-4045;

Pat Van Horne, USW, 613-859-1763., Fri Mar 31 2011

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