The Canadian Press
TORONTO–The Ontario government introduced legislation yesterday that would prevent a strike or lockout at one of the province’s major power utilities–a move its said was necessary to avoid power outages over the holidays.
Labour minister Laurie Scott said that if passed, the bill would send the dispute between the Power Workers’ Union and Ontario Power Generation to arbitration.
“This will prevent the effective shutdown of as much as half of Ontario’s electricity system,” she noted.
The Progressive Conservatives reconvened the legislature yesterday–just over a week after lawmakers rose for their winter break–to table the bill that would stop job action at the utility.
The move has been criticized by the official Opposition, who say the province didn’t even wait for the strike to begin before threatening to force workers back on the job.
NDP leader Andrea Horwath said the province had other options available but “went straight to the biggest hammer available, which is back-to-work legislation.”
Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner, meanwhile, said he looked forward to reviewing the details of the legislation and hoped it would respect the bargaining process.
“It is important that this government resists the urge to punish workers as they have done with other legislation this fall,” he said in a statement.
Labour groups denounced the bill, saying Ontario residents should be concerned at the speed and manner in which the government acted.
“These workers have not even gone on strike yet and the government is proposing back-to-work legislation,” Chris Buckley, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, said in a statement.
“This time it is power workers but there is no telling who will be on the receiving end of these rash actions next,” he warned.
The emergency session was announced in a statement Friday evening by government House leader Todd Smith.
The notice of a strike also came on Friday, a day after members of the Power Workers’ Union rejected a contract offer from OPG, putting them in a legal strike position.
“The shutdown of OPG’s nuclear and hydroelectric facilities could occur in approximately three weeks,” the Independent Electricity System Operator had said in a statement Friday.
“At that point, Ontario would not have the generation needed to meet consumer demand and customers would begin losing power,” it warned.