Volume 94, Issue 55

Wednesday, December 6, 2000


CFS stages sit-in over law changes

Unions poised to walk out over new bill

USC to debate changes to VP elections voting

Footballers score $16,000

Campus Briefs

McGuinty trashes Harris via e-mail - 'Pee-mail' campaign erupts over drug testing

CFS stages sit-in over law changes

By Mike Murphy
Gazette Staff

Student and worker activists occupied constituency offices in Etobicoke and North Bay yesterday, in a bid to force the Harris government into calling public hearings on controversial proposed changes to Ontario labour laws.

About 30 demonstrators entered Labour Minister Chris Stockwell's constitutency office in Etobicoke at approximately 10:15 a.m. to protest proposed changes to the Employment Standards Act, said Erin George, Ontario chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students.

"Our key demand is for public consultations," George said. According to George, changes would create unfair working conditions by allowing for 60 hour work weeks, reducing overtime pay and forcing employees to take holidays one day at a time.

"Students are going to be the first to feel the changes," George said.

But a spokersperson in the Ministry of Labour's policy department, Peter Hardie, said the protesters' disobedience was far from civil.

One woman staffer was present at the office when 20 demonstrators arrived, told her to turn off computers and lock up her files and then occupied the Minister's personal office, he said. "She was not very comfortable with what happened."

Police received a call at 10:38 a.m. concerning the protest, confirmed. Staff Sgt. Aldo Altomare at Toronto Police Services 22 Division. He said three officers were dispatched to the scene to observe the protest, but did not make any arrests. The protest dispersed at about 5:30 p.m., he said.

Mike Harris' constituency office in North Bay was a scene of similar political drama, as about 10 activists entered yesterday morning and asked to speak to someone in charge, said Shirley Fahlgren, Harris' executive assistant.

"It was very quickly disbanded," Fahlgren said. She said she tried to answer the protesters' questions about the proposed labour law changes, but her words fell on deaf ears.

"I said they were wrong and explained things to them, but they weren't willing to listen," she said.

A North Bay police spokesperson said the protesters left peacefully after about an hour. "It was all peaceful and everything was all done by around 11:30 [a.m.]," Sgt. Robert Jerome. He added four officers responded to the scene but did not take enforcement actions.

A Laurentian university student, Cristina Greco, joined labour leaders at the protest. She said seven people entered the office to voice their opposition, but were asked to leave when the police arrived.

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