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History of OPSEU: 2000 – 2008

History of OPSEU: 2000 – 2008



  • In May, the water supply of Walkerton is contaminated by E. coli bacteria, which leaves seven dead and thousands made ill. The toll includes OPSEU member Betty Trushinski, a dietary services worker at the South Grey Bruce Health Centre. The tragedy highlights cuts to public services. The Ministry of the Environment had cut more than 900 staff, and eliminated 80 per cent of water sampling stations. OPSEU insists on (and gets) whistle-blowing protection for members who testify at the inquiry into how it happened.
  • A strike in London against the Salvation Army’s community living program prompts the union to seek and win an injunction against the organization for intimidation and surveillance.
  • OPSEU uses the Health and Safety Act to bring charges against the Ministry of Natural Resources over a shipment of plutonium from the U.S. to Chalk River.
  • OPSEU’s annual convention celebrates 25 years as a union.
  • OPSEU gets an agreement for 1,100 ambulance paramedics working for 41 ambulance services across the province. They had taken a strike vote to further bargaining, and were facing downloading to municipalities in 2001.
  • Hospital health care professionals in 42 Ontario hospitals ratify a three-year deal covering about 5,000 members. The agreement includes a committee to raise awareness of the group’s work and its importance in health care.
  • More than 60 municipal councils pass resolutions opposing private prisons, despite pressure from the government saying the decision would mean no further ministry investment in their communities.
  • OPSEU demands that the Ministry of Labour close the courthouse in Newmarket until all toxic mould is removed, particularly after judges were relocated when they refused to work in the mouldy courtrooms. Ten days later the courthouse is closed.
  • About 200 home care workers with the Hamilton- Wentworth Victorian Order of Nurses strike over low pay, as they lose trained workers to other employers. The VON settles after 33 days for a sixper- cent raise over three years, their first increase in a decade.
  • Shortly thereafter the Hamilton-Wentworth Community Care Access Centre staff strikes. This agency coordinates the home care programs in the Hamilton area, including the work of the VON. They also are bleeding staff to surrounding agencies. They reach a tentative deal after nine weeks. These two strikes highlight the problems in home care.
  • The late Paul Robeson, a black singer, actor and human rights activist, receives the Humanitarian Award in the year of his centenary.
  • Mike Harris announces a 42 per cent wage hike for MPPs, compared to the 2 per cent limit imposed on other public service wage increases. Casselman slams the ideas as obscene and bone-headed.


  • Workers at Syl Apps Centre for young offenders in Oakville vote to keep OPSEU as their union after the government privatizes the operation to Kinark Youth Services. Local 213 is President Casselman’s home local.
  • It turns out that no Canadian companies are qualified to run the private superjail in Penetang under the government’s terms of reference. The contract goes to a Utah firm.
  • A CAS workload study confirms a union report that heavy workloads put children at risk. OPSEU has about 2,000 members in 17 CASs.
  • OPSEU and four other unions launch a pay equity challenge under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They argue that the government is perpetuating sex discrimination by underfunding public services.
  • Stephen Lewis, former Ontario NDP leader, former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations, and currently U.N. special envoy on HIS/AIDS in Africa receives the Stanley Knowles award.
  • The government introduces changes to the Public Service Act to make privatization easier, allow delegation of authority outside the public service and create new categories of temporary staff. They also allow the Ontario Provincial Police Association (OPPA) to organize more than 2,000 OPSEU members who are civilian employees of the OPP. The OPPA was a major backer of the Harris Tory government.
  • Staff at Kennedy House Youth Services in Uxbridge (formerly the St. John’s School) authorize a strike when the new private employer demands severe cuts to the contract at the young offenders’ facility. In response, the employer locks them out. The lockout will last more than a year.
  • Canadian Blood Services members in Hamilton back a strike vote to back demands for their first contract. OPSEU represents the majority of laboratory technologists in Ontario and all Hamilton lab techs. There is a provincial shortage of skilled technologists. It takes a one-week strike to get a settlement, which addresses blood safety as well as providing wage increases.
  • A mouldy court-house in Etobicoke is closed following a staff walkout.
  • North Bay locals organize a local Public Service Fair with speakers from Concerned Walkerton Citizens, Citizens Against Private Prisons, OPSEU’s bargaining team and the Ontario Federation of Labour. They march on local MPP Mike Harris’s office and make a presentation to the local food bank. It’s preparation for the 2002 round of OPS bargaining.
  • Sept. 11, two hijacked planes fly into the towers of the World Trade Centre in New York, another hits the Pentagon and a fourth crashes in a field. The world’s priorities and perceptions are changed dramatically in an instant. But in some ways, the attack clarifies the importance of public services and makes it easier to discuss their value.
  • The Ontario government lays off the last five scientists with expertise in life-threatening biohazards. OPSEU demands they be reinstated and that the government look to bio-terrorism response in a serious way.
  • OPSEU demands safety procedures for mail workers handling suspicious packages after a series of scares involving white powder in the Queen’s Park mail room.
  • The government starts to privatize driver testing and licencing, and OPSEU raises public safety concerns. After a prolonged battle, the privatization goes through and British-based SERCO takes over the work.
  • Ambulance dispatch workers start raising the issue of fewer staff to handle the calls. They are paid significantly less than fire and police dispatchers, which regularly poach ambulance dispatchers once they have the training.
  • OPSEU goes into the next round of OPS bargaining under the banner of Rebuilding Public Services after 6.5 years of Conservative cuts, layoffs, privatization and mismanagement


Rebuild our public services Support renewal of your public services
OPS members rally outside Tory leadership convention April 2002
  • In January, three OPSEU members and a manager are killed in a helicopter crash north of Sault Ste. Marie while doing moose surveys. OPSEU calls for a full inquiry.
  • Liberal and NDP MPPs pledge to support renewal of the OPS. The union promotes whistle-blowing protection as part of its campaign for renewal.
  • Food safety becomes an issue supporting bargaining as the government has cut full-time meat inspectors to eight from 150 in 1996. All 20 Farm Products Inspectors are gone. • March 1 – OPS members vote 88 per cent to give the bargaining team a strike mandate. The turnout is 71 per cent.
  • March 13 – More than 45,000 OPS members are on strike. Essential and emergency services continue. Correctional facilities lock out the essential and emergency services. The strike is to last eight weeks.
  • OPS members rally outside Tory leadership convention April 2002
  • Workers in 21 CASs, represented by OPSEU and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, file en masse for conciliation. Issues include excessive paperwork, not enough time to help children, and heavy caseloads, as well as basic economic matters.
  • OPS members rally outside Tory leadership convention April 2002
  • The discovery of thousands of confidential patient records abandoned in a former part of Whitby Psychiatric Hospital raises concerns over public safety and confidentiality of records. • Dr. Sima Samar, an Afghani doctor and activist named deputy premier of the new government in Afghanistan, received the Humanitarian Award. • About 2,500 court workers, considered essential during the strike, rally for justice across the province. Various groups in the OPS arrange media coverage to highlight the work they do and the problems they face on the job.
  • The Ontario Federation of Labour organizes a Solidarity Day in at least 22 cities. Later there is a women’s solidarity event.
  • Ernie Eves is elected Tory leader and succeeds Mike Harris as premier. OPSEU calls on him to listen to his staff and settle the strike.
  • May 2 sees a tentative settlement to the OPS strike. It maintains employeescontrol over pension surpluses, boosts wages and improves job quality for the 26 per cent of members on temporary contracts. Members ratify the contract on May 5 and most return to work May 6.
  • The Convention takes a serious look at the union’s strike fund, which had begun the OPS strike at $27 million but was depleted during the eight weeks. Delegates agree to a special dues levy to rebuild the fund to $30 million in two years.
  • In August, OPSEU sues the government over delays implementing the negotiated wage increases.
  • Correctional Officers at the private superjail in Penetanguishene vote to be represented by OPSEU.
  • Workers at a pallet manufacturer in Eastern Ontario vote for OPSEU, as the union moves into the private sector.
  • Workers in the Hospital Professionals Division vote by 91 per cent to do “whatever it takes” in escalating job action to win improved wages and working conditions, and to reduce long hours and overtime. They provide diagnostic, therapeutic and rehabilitation services.
  • OPSEU releases a report entitled Reality: Ontario’s Mental Health Care System Isn’t Working which spells out many deficiencies in the province’s approach to mental illness.


OPSEU hospital staff shortages put your health at risk
These Sudbury members were among more than 5,000 hospital professionals who staged a province-wide walkout on Feb. 13, 2003, to protest staff shortages.
Positive Space
NDP Leader Jack Layton addresses the 2004 OPSEU Convention during the Federal election campaign.
  • An outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) puzzles the public health system, puts thousands in quarantine. Health care workers demand information to protect themselves from the previously unknown disease and hospitals change operating procedures to curb transfer of infection. A second SARS outbreak hits in May as hospital funding cuts have forced the layoff of 36 hospital professionals including those handling screening for SARS.
  • OPSEU adopts the fight against HIV/AIDS as its major charitable activity. It establishes a Live and Let Live Fund which will raise money to alleviate the suffering. Three quarters will go to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa through the Stephen Lewis Foundation, and a quarter will be spent on community efforts in Ontario.
  • OPSEU organizes a series of public forums to discuss the future of mental health services.  (Right) On Feb. 13, hospital professionals at 40 hospitals launch a job action called a Hospital Emergency Day of Action to back bargaining deamnds. Three major hospitals agree to OPSEU’s proposal and urge the Ontario Hospital Association to move. The day after the protest, the OHA agrees to the union’s arbitration process. This is the first such action by the hospital group, who are denied the right to strike under the Hospital Labour Disputes Arbitration Act.
  • Leah Casselman is elected to a record fifth term as OPSEU president.
  • The Stanley Knowles award is presented to Botswana Health Minister Joy Phumaphi, who is deeply involved in the fight against HIA/AIDS.
  • College faculty reject a management offer by 98 per cent. Issues include the workload formula and the quality of training and education the colleges offer.
  • Members providing security at Casino Niagara reach a tentative agreement on a first contract, just 90 minutes before a strike deadline.
  • The province admits it has a staffing crisis at ambulance dispatch centres. It operates 12 of the 20 dispatch centres and funds the other eight which are operated by hospitals or municipalities.
  • The union’s work on racism in corrections is, in part, behind a Board of Inquiry demand that a decision on racism in corrections be distributed to all employees of the ministry. For several years, OPSEU has spearheaded a program to create systemic change in a ministry rife with sexism, racism and harassment.
  • The Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge on pay equity produces a landmark $414 million settlement for about 100,000 women in mainly female public sector workplaces. The case was launched in 2001.
  •  Locked-out workers at Kennedy House get a tentative agreement on July 15, more than a year after the dispute began. However, the operation is closed down and they never return to work.
  •  OPSEU makes meat inspection a provincial election issue after seven years of cuts to the inspectorate. News that a packing plant in Aylmer had processed meat not fit for human consumption accentuates the threat.
  •  OPSEU wins a Supreme Court case backing the human rights of a probationary employee to return to her job after maternity leave.
  •  In the October provincial election, a Liberal government headed by Premier Dalton McGuinty replaces Ernie Eves’ Tories. OPSEU had worked hard on the election, supporting NDP and Liberal candidates with staff and money, to defeat the Conservatives. OPSEU heralds the result as an opportunity to start rebuilding public services.
  •  Ambulance paramedics in Owen Sound beat back the idea of “firemedics” where their work would be rolled into the work of the fire department.


  • OPSEU and CUPE call on the new Liberal government to clean up the mess in CASs. They point to deficiencies in services to children in care, salaries, workload, travel costs and information technology.
  • OPSEU continues the fight against Public Private Partnerships (P3s) as a way of financing hospitals and other public services. The union criticizes the secrecy surrounding the contracts and the lack of accountability.
  • Convention creates a Provincial Youth Committee, similar to the women’s and human rights ones. This recognizes that young people must be brought into the labour movement, and the labour movement must reach out to them on their terms.
  • Correctional Officers in the private jail in Penetanguishene reject a contract offer by 99 per cent. They want parity with provincial COs. They reject a second offer before finally ratifying a first contract which provides a solid base for future negotiations.
  • Shirin Ebadi, an Iraqi human rights activist and lawyer, receives the Stanley Knowles Award.
  • Casselman calls on the government to restore taxation to rebuild public services. The province has a revenue problem, not a spending problem, she said. The first McGuinty Liberal budget introduces a new “health premium,” but it is a regressive tax, with the wealthy paying less than their fair share.
  • OPSEU tells the review of meat inspection that inspectors need the same kind of backup from management that police officers have on the front lines. The union wants more training, more inspectors and publication of the enforcement records for all provincially-inspected abattoirs.
  • Staff at Kinark, the new private operator at Syl Apps Youth Centre, vote nearly 92 per cent to strike. Talks break down and the 145 workers strike on April 14. They finally get a settlement Dec. 1.
  • Niagara College cafeteria workers end a 21-day strike after ratifying a deal with Aramark Canada Ltd. They win a 12.6-per-cent increase over three years.
  • Mr. Justice Archie Campbell’s interim report on the SARS crisis echoes the union’s warnings about cuts to public health and the health care system. It calls for strengthening the role of health care workers (not just doctors and nurses) and their unions in protecting public health; renewing and properly funding public health; and putting accountability, direction and control in the hands of the province.
  • OPSEU wins a representation vote at the Ottawa Hospital, where about 2,000 diagnostic, therapeutic and rehabilitation professionals reject an attempted raid by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada. Later an arbitrator orders wage increases of seven to 17 per cent over three years, making them the highest paid hospital professionals in the region.
  • More than 100 Niagara area nurses lose their jobs when the VON loses the bid to continue providing home care in the area as it has for 85 years. OPSEU condemns the “managed competition” model for bidding which meant the VON never had a chance to succeed. OPSEU calls on Health Minister George Smitherman to suspend the new Niagara contract pending a review. He declines, but appoints former health minister Elinor Caplan to review the competitive bidding process.
  • OPSEU donates $10,000 toward disaster relief after Peterborough is hit by unexpected flooding.
  • The union opposes the planned closure of regional centres for those with developmental disabilities in Smiths Falls, Orillia and Blenheim.
  • OPSEU donates $50,000 to the Stephen Lewis Foundation as part of its commitment to alleviate the scourge of HIV/AIDS in Africa.
  • OPSEU hosts a conference on Building Links for Better Mental Health in early November. It draws staff, consumers/survivors and family members to share information and discuss issues in mental health.
  • The union creates OPSEUdirect, a “resource centre” in an effort to better respond to members’ inquiries.


No more cuts
Transit ads for OPS Bargaining were banned in Ottawa
Ontario Liquor Boards Employees' Union
OLBEU President John Coones and Leah Casselman OPSEU President
Ethel LaValley speaking
Ethel LaValley
  • Ontario’s Ministry of Community and Social Services announces its schedule for closing the province’s three remaining regional centres for people with developmental disabilities by March 2009. OPSEU launches campaigns in Smiths Falls, Blenheim and Orillia, rallying with the parents of residents who file a class action lawsuit.
  • OPSEU goes to Divisional Court to reverse the Tory decision to close the College des Grands Lacs. A coalition of francophone groups also speaks out against the move.
  • OPSEU welcomes Bob Rae’s recommendation for increased and more stable post-secondary education dollars, and for more full-time faculty. But quality will be undermined if college part-timers are not allowed to join the union, OPSEU says.
  • A court orders the Ontario government to pay a total of $1.2 million in damages to 50 employees who were stripped of their rights during the process of privatizing three young offender facilities. The court upheld an earlier decision by the Grievance Settlement Board that each of the affected employees should be paid damages equal to two weeks salary for each year of service. The City of Ottawa vetoes OPSEU transit-shelter ads critical of Premier Dalton McGuinty’s record on public services. The city relents after protests from the Ottawa Labour Council.
  • The OPSEU Rainbow Alliance goes on record in support of same-sex marriage, saying that not allowing same-sex couples to marry violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Human Rights Code.
  • Leah Casselman is re-elected OPSEU president for a record sixth term at the 30th annual OPSEU Convention in April. She was first elected president in 1995. Warren (Smokey) Thomas of Kingston is elected for a third term as the union’s First Vice-President/Treasurer.
  • St. Joseph’s Health Care of London-St.Thomas agrees to pay out more than $2 million and rescind layoffs to settle a two-year overtime dispute with its mental health staff. The hospital must also sign a new scheduling arrangement that had been proposed by OPSEU at the beginning of the dispute.
  • On May 25-27, OPS members vote 65 per cent to reject a contract offer from the McGuinty government and to give their bargaining team a strike mandate. The turnout was 66 per cent of the 42,000-member bargaining unit. A new OPS contract is reached on June 11 with wage increases totaling 9.75 per cent over four years.
  • After a long negotiation, support unit workers with Canadian Blood Services vote 67 per cent in favour of a new collective agreement that give the 850 workers a three per cent increase in each of three years, plus improved benefits and better job security provisions.
  • 5,400 members of the Ontario Liquor Boards Employees Union vote to merge with OPSEU, forming the OPSEU Liquor Board Employees Division. On July 27, they vote 83 per cent to accept a new four-year contract with the LCBO that includes better protection against privatization.
  • 6,500 support workers reach a tentative agreement with the community colleges on Sept. 2. A three-year agreement expiring Aug. 31, 2008 includes a three per cent staged wage increase in each year.
  • Staff at the Ambassador Bridge Duty-Free Store in Windsor strike on Sept 2. The 45 students at the University of Windsor want a longer term of employment then one year. The settlement reached Sept. 26 includes a 12-month contract extension, an immediate wage increase of between eight and 14 per cent, and a signing bonus of $1,000.
  • Probation and Parole Officers and employees of the Ontario Parole and Early Release Board (OPERB) rally at Queen’s Park Oct. 13 to protest a government plan to transfer Ontario’s parole system to the federal government.
  • OPSEU announces a campaign to make unionization legal for 16,000 part-time college employees. Ontario is the only province in Canada that legally bars part-time college employees from union membership.
  • OPSEU members at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, one of OPSEU’s largest locals, ratify a new contract with 89 per cent voting in favour of the new collective agreement.
  • In a massive turnout Nov. 21, almost 9,000 North Bay citizens voted to reject private (P3) hospital in the recent plebiscite. 97 per cent supported the proposition: “I support a North Bay and District Hospital that is 100 per cent non-profit, publicly owned and publicly operated.”
  • OPSEU and other Ontario health care unions launch a province-wide advertising campaign to push the Ontario government to make safety-engineered medical sharps mandatory. This would prevent 33,000 injuries a year in Ontario and save millions of dollars in related health costs. OPSEU develops a new website: www.saferneedles.ca Region 5 Vice-President Terry Downey is elected Executive Vice-President of the Ontario Federation of Labour at its biannual convention in November. Downey was an employee of the Ontario Human Rights Commission for 17 years. Meanwhile, former OPSEU activist Ethel LaValley retires after 10 years as OFL Secretary-Treasurer.
  • In late November, OPSEU joins three other unions representing almost 200,000 Ontario health care workers in a fight against the Liberal government’s plan for Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs). The plan divides the province into 14 regions and introduces the competitive bidding model for health services. Despite protests and a million-dollar ad campaign, the LHINs plan passes into law in February, 2006.


OPSEU members on strike
Kennedy House Strike
Ontario College Faculty protest
CAAT A strike
Greening OPSEU/SEFPO logo
Greening OPSEU Campaign
Leah Casselman the first female president of OPSEU/SEFPO
Leah Casselman
  • OPSEU joins the Ontario Nurses’ Association, the Service Employees International Union and the Canadian Union of Public Employees in a joint protest against massive changes to health service delivery in the form of Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs). The unions say LHINs will open the door to more private health care, while compromising local access to services and diminishing patient care. In February, regional offices of the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care are closed, becoming the first casualties of the LHINs. As the year progresses, there are more layoffs in hospitals and home care services and the unions are forced into runoff votes for representation of amalgamated services..
  • A court ruling forces the Ontario government to fund top-quality community care for people with developmental disabilities before it can move them out of Ontario’s three remaining three Regional Centres operated by the Ministry of Community and Social Services.  The lack of available community alternatives slows plans for staff layoffs at the three centres.
  • OPSEU launches a campaign against a provincial government plan to privatize the Trillium Drug Program that provides subsidies to more than 200,000 Ontarians who face extreme drug costs.
  • 8,900 teachers, counsellors and librarians go on strike March 7 at 24 community colleges. Education quality is the central issue. An OPSEU picketer, John Stammers, a professor of accounting at Centennial College in Scarborough, is fatally injured after being struck by a car on March 20. The strike lasts three weeks before the management and the union bargaining team agree to send outstanding issues to binding arbitration. Arbitrator William Kaplan’s award, released in June, gives OPSEU members a task force on workload and competitive wage increases.
  • Workers at Kennedy House, a young offender facility in Ajax, go on strike March 28. The key issues in the dispute are employee safety, wages and hours of work. The strike is to last 11 months before a settlement is ratified.
  • OPSEU reaffirms its zero-tolerance policy for racism and discrimination in the workplace after incidents of racism in Toronto-area correctional facilities. A joint union-management systemic change program aims to combat racism and sexism in the jails.
  • Support workers at Community Living Mississauga go on strike for the first time in search of fairness for part-timers and a reasonable wage increase. Two-thirds of the 360 employees are part-timers, earning less than $15 an hour with no benefits. The strike lasts seven weeks.
  • In keeping with the “Greening OPSEU” theme, OPSEU Convention 2006 presents the Stanley Knowles Humanitarian Award to Canadian environmental journalist David Suzuki. In his keynote address, Suzuki urges delegates to take up the environmental challenge.
  • OPSEU joins with dozens of community groups in opposing legislative changes to the Ontario Humans Rights Commission that will move complaints directly to the Human Rights Tribunal, bypassing the Commission. After an eight-month battle, the legislation passes with amendments favourable to clients and staff.
  • The McGuinty Liberal government reverses a Mike Harris decision to privatize adult correctional facilities, capping a five-year OPSEU campaign against private jails. The contract with a Utah-based company to operate the Central North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene, the first private adult jail in Canada, was not renewed. OPSEU negotiates entry of the jail staff into the Ontario Public Service.
  • OPSEU calls for a moratorium on the opening of any new LCBO “agency” stores, pending appropriate public hearings, in the wake of the government’s announcement of 20 new private liquor outlets. OPSEU members hand out leaflets to customers outside 25 LCBO stores Nov. 24 in protest.
  • More than 250 employees of Canadian Blood Services National Contact Centre in Sudbury vote in favour of joining OPSEU.
  • OPSEU releases an internal government report that Provincial Park visitors in Ontario pay a higher percentage of overall costs than park visitors in any Canadian province or U.S. state. A “Save Our Parks” campaign is launched.
  • The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources is too weak to adequately enforce provincial game laws because of deep cuts to the work of Conservation Officers. OPSEU holds a Day of Action Nov. 16 and launches a “Save the MNR” campaign. Union members hold bake sales in order to buy gas for MNR vehicles.
  • The International Labour Organization (ILO) rules against the Ontario government for excluding 16,000 part-time Ontario college employees from collective bargaining. Delegates representing part-time college faculty and support staff form the Organization of Part-time and Sessional Employees of Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology (OPSECAAT) to fight the government-imposed ban on unionization.
  • The annual report of the provincial Auditor General paints a picture of a public service badly damaged by 13 years of cost-cutting. Operating spending for all ministries of the Ontario Public Service is flat-lined, The report shows that the OHIP card program is 14 years behind schedule.
  • In December, Leah Casselman announces her decision not to seek re-election as OPSEU president. Casselman, 52, remains president until the union elects a successor at its annual Convention in April 2007.


Warren 'Smokey' Thomas
Thomas elected sixth president of OPSEU at Convention
Patty Rout speaking
Rout elected 1st Vice-President Treasurer
  • Health and safety refusals at the North Bay Jail are validated by the Ministry of Labour after an incident Jan.11 when correctional officers were ordered to remove an inmate armed with a razor. Staff refused, requesting that the jail’s specially-trained extraction team be utilized. This led to a 13-hour stand-off between union officials and management before management is overruled by the Labour ministry.
  • OPSEU and the family of Prof. John Stammers file a private prosecution over Stammers’ death in the 2006 college strike at Centennial College in Scarborough. Stammers, 62, died from injuries suffered in a picket line incident involving a vehicle. Police did not lay charges at the time, but the Ontario Court of Justice ruled there were grounds to proceed against a 22-year-old man on charges of criminal negligence causing death and leaving the scene of an accident.
  • After eleven months on the picket line, 32 members of OPSEU Local 361 return to work April 9 at Kennedy House, a maximum-security facility for young offenders. The workers went on strike March 28, 2006 in a dispute over employee safety, wages, hours of work and seniority in case of layoffs.
  • In March, frustrated employees of the Ministry of Natural Resources launch a bottle-return drive to raise enough money to keep their enforcement vehicles in operation. The MNR was unable to cover expenses due to dramatic cutbacks in its budget.
  • As part of a coalition supporting raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour, OPSEU produces a TV advertising blitz aimed at the racialized communities most affected by poverty. The 30-second advertisements were produced in Cantonese, English, French, Portuguese, Somali, Tagalog and Tamil. The provincial government responds by announcing a three-year plan to raise the minimum wage to $10.
  • OPSEU launches a TV and radio advertising campaign highlighting the crisis in services for people with developmental disabilities. More than a decade of cuts and under-funding left agencies unable to provide the level of care they once could.
  • The move to private sector production of drivers’ licences should be of grave concern to all Ontarians who treasure the confidentiality of personal records, OPSEU warns. The province’s move to privatize comes on the heels of a warning from the federal privacy commissioner this that using citizenship information on drivers’ licences to facilitate border-crossing between Canada and the U.S.
  • Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare in Bracebridge suspends two OPSEU union stewards for campaigning to save lab services at the hospital. The suspensions without pay are the second incident where the hospital tries to silence the union.
  • OPSEU publishes a consultant’s report that shows the Liquor Control Board of Ontario is losing more than $73 million a year in sales and $16 million in profits by allowing private “agency stores” to sell alcohol in small and mid-sized Ontario communities.
  • In April, union members at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance vote to keep OPSEU as their union, after an unsuccessful raid attempt by the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC).
  • Warren “Smokey” Thomas, 54, is elected OPSEU’s sixth president at its 32nd Convention on April 20, and Patty Rout is elected First Vice-President/Treasurer. Thomas, who served as First Vice-President for six years, replaces Leah Casselman who retires after serving 12 years as OPSEU president. Thomas is a registered practical nurse from Kingston. Rout, 54, is a laboratory Technologist at Lakeridge Hospital in Oshawa.
  • At Convention, the 2007 Stanley Knowles Award goes to Justice Louise Arbour, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. She accepts the award via a videotaped link.
  • The Ontario Environmental Commissioner’s findings echo those of OPSEU’s ‘Save the MNR’ campaign, launched in September, 2006, that has drawn widespread attention to the MNR’s chronic under funding and job losses. MNR staff in several northern communities organized charity BBQ’s, bottle-return drives and bake sales to raise money for the Ministry. Figures obtained by OPSEU through Freedom of Information show a 30 per cent reduction in the number of fish and wildlife charges laid, a 36 per cent reduction in the number of convictions, and a 39 per cent reduction in the dollar value of fines paid for fish and game violations.
  • More than 100 health care workers rally at Queen’s Park on May 1 for Bill 30, the Safe Needles Save Lives Act. On Aug. 23, the Ontario government provides $55-million for N95 respirators and mandates the use of safety engineered needles or needle-less systems to protect health care workers in Ontario hospitals. “This shows that our strong campaigning on this issue has paid off,” says President Smokey Thomas.
  • The Organization of Part-time and Sessional Employees of the Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology (OPSECAAT) releases a 44-page document entitled “Compromising Quality.” It outlines, in the words and real-life on-the-job experiences of part-time academic and support staff, how the quality of education is linked to working conditions.
  • In May, OPSEU sponsors public forums in London, Kingston and Thunder Bay to draw attention to the serious problems facing community-based mental health programs. Two-thirds of the 21 mental health programs in Ontario had trouble discharging patients due to a shortage of supportive housing and specialized treatment programs in the community.
  • Disclosure of court documents relating to Brampton’s William Osler Health Centre show that the McGuinty Liberals knew that the deal with a private consortium could cost as much as $300 million more than under public financing and administration.
  • Staff who support people with developmental disabilities in communities across Ontario picket local MPP offices on May 16 to highlight the Ontario government’s inadequate response to the crisis in developmental services.
  • On May 22, pickets greet management from Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare in Barrie as they arrive for a mediation session with the Ministry of Labour over an unfair labour practices complaint against the management actions intended to muzzle the staff.
  • OPSEU President Thomas, First Vice-President/Treasurer Rout and the seven highest-ranking elected members of OPSEU attend a health and safety rally for members who work at the North Bay Jail on June 7.
  • On June 8, the Supreme Court of Canada rules for the first time that collective bargaining rights are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, setting a precedent that could affect the rights of 17,000 part-time Ontario college workers. The court was ruling on legislation in British Columbia that cancelled various collective agreement provisions for health care workers, and then precluded further bargaining on those issues.
  • More than 1,000 staff at Community Living London, Middlesex Community Living, Elgin Association for Community Living and Community Living Chatham-Kent strike for better wages. The strike last eight weeks. About 700 workers in two units in London and Picton remain on strike.
  • 180 OPSEU members at York CAS stage a 17-day strike to resolve the three areas of concern: workload, wages and mileage. The strike ends in victory on Sept. 13.
  • Six correctional officers who were dismissed from the Toronto East Detention Centre in 1982 after an incident of prisoner abuse appear at the Ontario Labour Relations Board claiming the Ministry of Corrections had evidence that would have exonerated them.
  • OPSEU members involved in meat inspection set up a booth at the International Plowing Match in Crosby, Ontario, and meet with Premier McGuinty and opposition leaders to press OPSEU’s campaign to bring freestanding meat processing plants under provincial inspection.
  • OPSEU sponsors a public forum in Hamilton headlined by Dr. Arnold Relman, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, who warns Ontarians of the perils of health care privatization.
  • On Oct. 18, OPSEU officially launches the largest union organizing drive in Ontario history, aiming to sign up thousands of part-time and sessional employees at 24 community colleges. The union budgets $1.5 million to hire 125 temporary organizers. The six-month drive signs more than 7,000 part-timers by April, 2008.
  • Dozens of members of the Liquor Board Employees Division (LBED) stage a noon hour information picket Nov. 13 to protest bullying and harassment inside the massive warehouse depot in Whitby.
  • On Dec. 11, the provincial Auditor-General, James McCarter, reinforces OPSEU’s longstanding concerns that Ontario is not able to provide needed enforcement of the province’s fish and wildlife laws. President Thomas says “this backs up what our members have been saying for years, that the ministry is grossly underfunded and unable to fulfil its mandate or to protect our resources.”


Three OPSEU/SEFPO members
Jan. 16 Hamilton rally to save home care
Warren Thomas and Ron Lavigne
President Smokey Thomas and Executive Assistant Ron Lavigne with three young men in South Africa
OPSEU members protest
In a province-wide show of solidarity, hundreds of staff of the Ontario Disability Support Program rallied outside OSDP offices on March 4, 2008
OPSEU members holding signs
OPSEU and CUPE members rally together to stop the cuts at Rouge Valley Centenary June 23
Pensions for paramedics
Paramedics rally for pension fairness
OPSEU/SEFPO members protesting in the rain
OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Patty Rout joins the line in Owen Sound on a rainy Day Five.
Ontario College Faculty support members
CAAT Support staff in Timmins set up information pickets as negotiations continue for 7,000 workers
  • Comedian Mary Walsh, Hamilton Tiger Cats and radio personality Jason Farr, national NDP leader Jack Layton, and recording artist Tom Juravich headline a massive community rally to save home care in Hamilton  Jan. 16. The rally protests the loss of the home care contract by Victorian Order of Nurses and St. Joseph’s Home Care contracts. Soon after, the Ontario government places a moratorium on the competitive bidding for home care across the province.
  • In January, 2008, OPSEU launches the largest organizing drive in Ontario history, hoping to sign up a majority of the 17,000 part-time workers at Ontario’s 24 community colleges. The workers have been legally excluded from collective bargaining by a 1972 Ontario law. More than 100 OPSEU organizers are on the ground, and by April, they sign more than 7,000 potential new members.
  • OPSEU offers a $50,000 reward for information leading to the identification and conviction of the person or persons responsible for sending racist hate mail to correctional officers at the Toronto-area correctional facilities. For three years, black correctional officers, primarily at the Toronto (Don) Jail and Mimico Correctional Centre, have been sporadically receiving letters, filled with racist comments and threatening harm if they don’t leave the facilities.
  • Information picket lines go up outside Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) offices across Ontario March 4 to protest a crisis in understaffing that is seriously eroding the delivery of public services to 325,000 Ontarians who receive income support. A second noon picket is held May 22 before the province agrees to fund more ODSP staff positions.
  • In March, OPSEU President Smokey Thomas visits southern Africa AIDS/HIV projects, trade unions and community organizations.  The projects in South Africa and Malawi are funded by the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which OPSEU supports through the union’s Live and Let Live charitable fund. Thomas also delivered solar-powered lights to a rural village in need of electricity.
  • OPSEU welcomes the budget brought down by the provincial Liberals. Patty Rout, OPSEU’s First-Vice President/Treasurer, said the budget sends the right signals as several of the union’s largest units head into bargaining.  “With the revenue projections in this budget, the money is clearly there for fair settlements in the major units OPSEU represents,” Rout says.
  • OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says comments by provincial Conservative leader John Tory were offensive and betray an ignorance of what public servants actually do.  Tory was quoted as saying Ontario needs to cut public servants who just sit around “analyzing each other’s papers” and “breathing each other’s exhaust.”
  • OPSEU seeks an injunction to stop cuts to mental health services at Rouge Valley Health Services, for the hospitals serving East Scarborough, Pickering and Ajax.  The hospital announced 220 job cuts at Rouge over three years, including the elimination of 20 mental health beds from the Ajax-Pickering Hospital to move to Scarborough Centenary.
  • On April 14, OPSEU files an historic application with the Ontario Labour Relations Board to represent more than 17,000 part-time and sessional staff at 24 community colleges. However, college part-timers and sessionals are legally barred from unionization by the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act .  On April 17, the Labour Board reserved its decision on the application and denied an immediate after a lawyer representing the Attorney General says tat the province will move quickly to amend the law.
  • On June 10, the government introduces changes to the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act that will create a legal framework for part-time workers to join a union and bargain for job improvements. But the bill also makes changes to the CCBA that will adversely affect collective bargaining for 16,000 unionized full-timers. For example, the bill will eliminate provisions in the law that forbid the colleges from using scab labour during strikes or lockouts. It also requires students to be part of the part-time support staff bargaining unit. The bill is passed by the Legislature in September and receives Royal Assent in October.
  • The 33rd -annual OPSEU Convention is highlighted by the presentation of the Stanley Knowles Humanitarian Award to Dr. Philip Berger, a strong advocate for public health care, both in Canada and abroad. Dr. Berger is Chief of the Department of Family and Community Medicine, and Medical Director, Inner City Health Program, at St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto. The award was presented by Stephen Lewis, former special UN Ambassador on HIV.AIDS.
  • Citing issues of fairness and safety, paramedics from across Ontario rally in downtown Toronto on April 17 to call for the right to retire with full pension at age 60 under the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) plan.
  • Office and clerical workers, members of OPSEU Local 276, go on strike May 1 at the Grey Bruce Health Centre in Owen Sound. Wages for this group lag 15 per cent behind their counterparts in other health units, and in comparable jobs in Grey, Bruce, Simcoe, and across Ontario. The strike lasts six weeks.
  • President Thomas and leaders of OPSEU sectors meeting in Sudbury May 26 to plan strategy with about 100 OPSEU leaders from across Northeastern Ontario as a “Perfect Storm” of province-wide bargaining gathers for the union, one of a series of province-wide meetings intended to bolster solidarity as negotiations get underway. About 90,000 OPSEU members, working for the 24 Ontario colleges (support staff), the Ontario Public Service (OPS), the LCBO, and dozens of smaller agencies, will be bargaining contracts over the next year. The Perfect Storm information meeting is
  • In July, OPSEU and the Ontario Hospital Association embark on an historic central pay equity maintenance process in more than 40 Ontario hospitals.  The process involves 6,500 employees working in over 200 paramedical professions, predominately female-dominated
  • A private for-profit physiotherapy company plans to move into the Kincardine Hospital, charging for outpatient services that used to be publicly-funded. But after OPSEU files a “successor rights” application for the physiotherapy positions, the private company backs out of the plan.
  • As an Aug. 31strike deadline approaches, OPSEU reaches a tentative agreement for 6.500 college support staff. The contract is ratified, giving the employees wage increases of about 9 per cent over three years.
  • About 20 employees of the Timiskaming Health Unit, Local 674, go on strike Sept. 10. The nursing, professional-technical and clerical staff of the Health Unit, walk after the employer came back to the bargaining table with an offer that was inferior to the one the members had already rejected in a 90 per cent vote.  The strike lasts two weeks.
  • On Sept. 15, OPSEU files an unfair labour practice charge, demanding that Ontario Labour Relations Board declare that an agreement between the provincial government and the AMAPCEO managerial association is invalid, and pay $5 million in damages to the union. The backroom deal includes changes that would affect OPSEU’s jurisdiction, plus give the association a veto on any proposed legislation.
  • OPSEU mounts a campaign to shame the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto into addressing workplace violence. Bus shelters near the site feature a photograph of a woman with a bruised face. The caption reads: “No more excuses: The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health must protect its staff from violence. It’s the law.”  The ads provoke a heated debate within the community over whether the union and the victims of the violence should publicly remain silent in the face of mounting assaults, for fear of further stigmatizing mental health patients. On Nov. 26, the Ministry of Labour charges CAMH for violations of the Occupational and Health and Safety Act
  • In a ground-breaking decision, an arbitrator rules that spiritual care service associates – or chaplains as they were previously called — can be included as dues-paying members of OPSEU.  Arbitrator C. Gordon Simmons says that spiritual care service associates at the Providence Community Care Centre mental health site in Kingston are employees under the collective agreement of Local 431.
  • In Dec. 2, OPSEU files a new application for certification on behalf of 5,200 part-time college faculty under the new Colleges Collective Bargaining Act., asking the Labour Board to order a certification vote.

OPSEU History 1980s – 1990s

OPSEU History 1910s – 1970s