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More anti-worker violence alleged on northern Ont. picket line: CUPE


In a statement Saturday, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) condemned reports of more acts of violence against striking municipal workers in Black River-Matheson and called out the Ontario Government for allowing ‘scabs’ to ‘steal’ jobs.

In November, the 14 workers affected by the Black-River Matheson municipal labour dispute received support from other CUPE unions in the region. (File photo/CTV News Northern Ontario)CUPE said two equipment operators were allegedly hit by two different replacement workers driving a pickup truck through CUPE Local 1490’s picket lines on Wednesday.

“These are the second and third incidents of a motor vehicle being weaponized to attack Black River-Matheson’s 14 municipal workers who were, at first, locked out in October 2023,” the statement reads.

A video obtained by CTV News and claimed to be taken at the picket line on Feb. 14 shows a black Ford pickup truck with a brown bumper being driven slowly toward a man holding a flag. The video shows the truck bumping into the man who remains standing facing the vehicle. 

Daniel Tseghay of CUPE confirmed to CTV News in an email no one was injured and police were called for each incident -- two on the 14th and one on the 15th.

Union workers are standing firm on their demand for higher wages, rejecting the town’s latest deal in a forced vote. The township then lifted its lockout, prompting the strike.

CUPE’s accusations come after other recent reports of violence and nasty behaviour.

Two town staffers are facing criminal charges – accused of stalking union members. One staff member has also already been charged with assaulting a worker on the picket line.

None of the allegations has been proven in court.

The town cancelled its scheduled council meeting on Feb. 13 under procedural bylaw 2020-07, which allows a meeting to be cancelled because of an unforeseen event or if there are safety concerns for council or the public, amidst the increased tensions.

CUPE representatives said they are concerned about public safety as “the township appears to be hiring unqualified drivers.”

The union is calling for the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) to investigate the recent attacks on striking workers and is directing some of the blame towards town officials.

“Township managers who have been directing the work of scabs should also be fully investigated under Section 217.1 of the Criminal Code,” the union’s statement reads.

“There is a legal duty, already on the books, for anyone directing the work of others to take all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of workers and the public.”

The 14 municipal workers represented by CUPE 1490 have been on strike since Jan. 22/24, after first being locked out in October 2023. (File photo/Supplied/CUPE Local 1490)“We’ve been locked out or on strike for 124 days. That’s a third of a year,” said Serge Bouchard, president of CUPE Local 1490, in an audio recording provided to CTV News.

“As it stands now, it seems Doug Ford and all of Ontario’s Conservative MPPs are okay with a worker being the victim of a hit and run every 41 days.”

Bouchard said both town councillors and MPPs must stop this anti-worker violence.

“CUPE Ontario is extremely alarmed to learn that CUPE 1490 members were put in harm’s way again,” said CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn.

“Trying to break this legal strike using unqualified scabs, Mayor Doug Bender and the whole township council aren’t just putting CUPE members in danger, they’re putting the public’s safety at risk too.”

Hahn said the blame for the situation also extends to Premier Doug Ford for not supporting or enacting anti-scab legislation.

“Scab-preventing legislation would put an end to these bad practices and make labour disputes in general shorter and safer,” he said.

CTV News has reached out to the Township of Black River-Matheson about the allegations but they declined to comment.

OPP were also contacted for comment on the allegations but have yet to respond.

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) echoed CUPE’s sentiments in their own statement Sunday condemning the violence targeting a legal picket line, calling for an OPP investigation and renewing its call for more robust anti-scab in the province.

“Anti-worker violence of any kind is deplorable,” said Laura Walton, the OFL president.

“Incidents like these show why Ontario workers urgently need anti-scab legislation.”

Walton added the town’s mayor and council are ultimately responsible for the situation.

“They must act immediately and get a fair settlement for these workers. Any further delay, along with the continued use of scabs, is a safety risk for all residents,” she said. Top Stories

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