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Almeida blasts government over ‘obscene’ Bill 124

Almeida at bill 124 hearing

OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida was at Queen’s Park on Nov. 4 with blunt words for the Ford government: stop wasting time and money on a bill that will hurt frontline public sector workers, particularly women.

Almeida appeared before the Standing Committee on General Government, which is holding hearings on Bill 124.

Almeida says the government has more important things to do than push through the bill that would cap wage increases for frontline public sector workers at just one per cent a year for three years.

“I wish I could say I’m happy to be here, but I’m not. This is a colossal waste of my time and yours,”  Almeida told the committee.

“Climate change. Hallway health care. Record high personal debt. The gender pay gap. These are the urgent issues that require all of government’s time, attention and energy,” he added.

“Instead, we’re all stuck here talking about a bill that is flagrantly unconstitutional and that unfairly targets frontline public sector workers. And since most frontline public sector workers are women, this bill is an attack on women – it will make the gender pay gap worse.”

Bill 124 would cap the wage increases of the majority of OPSEU’s members, regardless of whether they negotiate at a table or argue before an arbitrator.

“Obviously this government doesn’t have any faith in the negotiating abilities of the deputy ministers it just gave big raises to,” said Almeida.

A minority of OPSEU members, including those who work for municipalities or organizations funded by municipalities, wouldn’t be affected by Bill 124. But most members would be affected, including those who currently have a contract – their next contract would be subject to three years of annual one per cent wage caps.

But Almeida vowed that OPSEU would fight the bill in court, rendering the entire exercise an expensive boondoggle.

“Stop wasting our money on lawyers and these needless court battles,” Almeida said.

Almeida demanded that the government listen to the growing number of economists – including Abhijit Banerjee, one of the winners of the 2019 Nobel Prize for Economics – who say that economic growth is spurred by consumer spending power, not tax cuts.

“More money in more people’s pockets means a stronger economy,” said Almeida. “You don’t have to be a Nobel Prize winner to understand that.”

Almeida pointed to the fact that the government’s own Ministry of Labour statistics show that public sector wages have already had to endure a decade of below-inflation raises.

“In eight of the last 10 years, public sector wage increases have been below inflation – we’ve taken an effective 5 per cent wage cut,” said Almeida. “And now we’re being targeted again. It’s obscene.”