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Government forcing OPSEU towards a strike

TORONTO – The union representing 35,000 frontline Ministry employees who work directly for the Ontario government announced today that bargaining representatives of the Ontario Government have taken a significant step towards forcing OPSEU members out on strike.

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said that instead of trying to bargain a fair contract with their employees, the government has initiated the process of negotiating Essential and Emergency Service (EES) Agreements, which by law must be completed prior to a legal strike or lockout.

“Our teams made it clear at the bargaining table that we would not accept the massive contract concessions the employer was demanding,” Thomas said. “However, we also made it clear we were there to negotiate an agreement, not a strike. The government has completely ignored our position, and has now started the process that will ultimately result in a province-wide labour disruption.”

The negotiation of the EES Agreements will only take place for the Unified Wage Category, covering all non-Corrections employees. The Corrections bargaining team is still negotiating contract issues with the employer at this time.

Thomas accuses the Wynne government of bully tactics at the bargaining table to throw a veil over the fact her government has wasted billions of dollars on private contractors and private companies.

“Wynne wants the people of Ontario to believe she is being tough and responsible by slashing public sector jobs, wages and benefits in order to save taxpayer money,” Thomas said. “The truth is, the money that the Auditor General says this government overspent on failed privatization schemes is nearly one hundred times more than the cost of providing a reasonable contract to every OPS member. Our members provide services better, cheaper and fairer than the private sector. It’s time this government, and this Premier, admits their mistakes and treats the dedicated professionals who provide vital public services with respect and fairness.”

The current collective agreement for all OPS employees expired Dec. 31, 2014.

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