The best defense against a strike is to be ready for one, and negotiators for the next OPS contract will ask the 36,000 OPS members for a strong strike mandate, OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas told activists and elected representatives at the OPS central bargaining conference on the weekend.
The employer is poised to attack core provisions of the OPS contract, including wages, sick leave, benefits, pensions, and job security provisions.
“Zeros will not be enough,” Thomas said, mincing no words about the sharp and targeted concession demands Ontario public service workers will face when their contract expires December 31, 2012. Government negotiators need to hear a clear message that they can’t bully the members, said Thomas.
“If we can get a deal without a strike, we will,” he said. “We will bargain first with the employer. It’s only if no deal is reached, that we will bargain emergency and essential services.”
To prepare for a potential strike, said Thomas, members need to pay their debts down or off, delay major purchases, and save money.
Solidly backing his position were Eddy Almeida, 1st Vice-President and Treasurer, and Roxanne Barnes, Chair of the central/unified bargaining committee elected on June 23. .
Almeida told conference delegates the strike fund is healthy and OPS members will get what they need to stand up to the employer.
“We will use our financial and human resources to maximum effect,” he said.
Barnes said that members have thousands of shop floor stewards and activists on their side and they need to let employer bargaining representatives know they will stand strong.
“They are counting on us to be tired, beleaguered and desperate,” she said, and challenged the room to “leave here today ready to change the game”.
Thomas said the members, activists, and leaders need to work together to turn fatigue and frustration into anger and turn it on the employer.
“If we can get a deal without a strike, we will.”
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President
“The strike fund is healthy and OPS members will get what they need to stand up to the employer.”
Eddy Almeida, 1st Vice-President and Treasurer
“They are counting on us to be tired, beleaguered, and desperate.”
Roxanne Barnes, Chair, central/unified bargaining committee