OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas has addressed the following letter to Minister of Government Services, Harinder Takhar. Condemning the attack on retirement savings and cuts to wages, it also decries the lack of respect for the health and safety concerns of Correctional Officers and staff at Hamilton Wentworth Detention Centre. Demanding respect for Ontario Public Service workers, the letter confirms the union’s decision to immediately suspend participation in various union/employer committees, including the Central Employee/Employer Relations Committee (CERC), Ministry Employee Relations Committees (MERCs), Regional Employee Relations Committees (RERCs), and Local Employee Relations Committees (LERCs).
Read the full letter:
September 6, 2012
Dear Minister Takhar:
OPSEU considers its relationship with the government to be foundational to the interests of thousands of union members as well as Ontario"s communities and citizens. After all, OPS staff provide a critical service to the province, assuring the quality of life we all enjoy.
OPSEU members respect the work they do and expectations placed on their positions. Our members also expect the employer to deal with them with similar respect.
Unfortunately, this partnership has been eroded through recent actions and statements from government. One action is the government review of public sector pensions. The review threatens the retirement savings our members rely on for a dignified retirement.
Another affront was the recent statement from the Premier that public servants should be required, without exception, to forgo wage increases. This results in a cut to our incomes, as inflation continues to reduce the value of frozen incomes. In fact, a freeze is a cut.
We are also witnessing the disrespect directed at Correctional Officers and staff at the Hamilton Wentworth Detention Centre. In this case, staff are prevented from working in a healthy and safe manner, due to orders (from management) not to wear protective vests during searches for dangerous materials now in the hands of prisoners. This action unnecessarily puts the lives of our members at risk.
Taken together, these actions are an attack on our important long standing relationship. We believe these actions are designed to inflame feelings in advance of upcoming negotiations. We have no control over the actions taken by management. We do have control over the degree to which we will continue to put up with this abuse.
I am writing to confirm the union"s decision to immediately suspend participation in various union/employer committees, including the Central Employee/Employer Relations Committee (CERC), Ministry Employee Relations Committees (MERCs),
Regional Employee Relations Committees (RERCs), and Local Employee Relations Committees (LERCs). We will however continue to participate in joint Health and Safety Committees.
This is a decision we have not come to lightly. It responds to actions directed our way by the employer. It is a signal that OPSEU members are prepared to draw a firm line against unfair and disrespectful employer behavior. After all, an attack against some is an attack against all.
We hope our signal will give the employer pause. Can we expect to see some change in advance of what is sure to be a difficult bargaining round, to ensure that our members in the OPS are able to serve the people of Ontario, with continued excellence?
Perhaps the employer will share this goal by enabling, rather than restricting, the rights of its staff. Time will tell.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
copy: OPSEU members on the CERC, MERCs, RERCs and LERCs
OPSEU Executive Board