Hundreds of OPSEU members from across Ontario joined Region 5 activists on January 11 at Premier Kathleen Wynne’s New Year’s Levy in Toronto.
The OPSEU rally, coordinated by Region 5 Vice-President Myles Magner, was organized to support OPS bargaining and assist member mobilization efforts to stand against the concessions demanded by the government at OPS bargaining tables.
Members were joined by President Warren (Smokey) Thomas and 1st Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, along with other Executive Board members.
Picket signs and slogans highlighted key issues in bargaining, including the unfairness of continued concession demands given the OPS has already faced wage freezes and other cuts. Members are also concerned that government negotiators are taking the position that there will be no compensation increases under any condition for the first two years of a new contract…despite the Wynne government’s public statements that indicate that efficiencies and productivity increases could provide improvements.
This is a key point, given that OPSEU has proven that ending costly privatization of systems and functions like IT could save government hundreds of millions every year.
The government’s “no compensation” position will also adversely affect Ontario’s Correctional Services. Correctional members are demanding a long-overdue investment in staffing, equipment and training to resolve long-standing health and safety issues in what are becoming increasingly dangerous correctional facilities.
At the rally, Wynne sent word she wanted to meet with OPSEU representatives. President Thomas, OPS Central/Unified Bargaining Team Chair Roxanne Barnes and Corrections Bargaining Team Vice-Chair Gord Longhi met with Wynne and asked the Premier to clarify: (a) her position on “net zero” compensation; (b) the need to have actual employer decision makers at the bargaining table; (c) statements made by Wynne that minimized the importance of the members’ 90 per cent strike mandate; and, (d) the need to have bargaining governed by dialogue and progress, rather than artificial time limits.
Notwithstanding her request for the meeting, little was provided by Wynne to clarify these points.
As negotiations continue, it is OPSEU’s intent to get these answers from the Premier. We hope that the responses will be in the interests of OPS members, and all Ontarians.
Despite growing pessimism, the OPS Bargaining Teams continue to push the government into responding to its proposals and recommendations. Ontario’s public services and the working lives of OPSEU members depend on it.
Related: OPS Bargaining 2014 Index Page