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Labour needs a strong NDP to tackle precarious work: OPSEU

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas in the Queen's Park media gallery.

Toronto – Events at Queen’s Park this week show how important a strong New Democratic Party is for the labour movement’s fight against precarious work in Ontario, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) says.

“The college faculty strike, which the Liberal government has just ended with legislation, put the problems of low-wage contract workers front and centre on the public agenda,” OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said today. “It was a battle for precarious workers today and for every future worker, in college or out, who dreams of having a good job and the good life it affords.

“Unfortunately, less than half the Liberal caucus even bothered to show up at Queen’s Park for the debate this weekend,” he said. “But on the other side of the aisle, the NDP was there in full force.”

Thomas said the Liberals “showed their true colours” when they tabled back-to-work legislation covering more than 12,000 striking college professors, instructors, counsellors, and librarians.

“The Liberals let the strike drag on until they could justify their legislation in the court of public opinion,” he said. “In doing so, they played right into the hand of the College Employer Council, which had been aiming for legislation, not negotiation, all along.

“If Premier Kathleen Wynne had been proactive on this file she would have ordered the colleges to move weeks ago to end the cheap labour strategy that is short-changing faculty and students alike,” he said. “Instead, she let the colleges thumb their noses at students, faculty, collective bargaining, and even her own government.”

Union leaders who plan to back the Liberals in the next provincial election are making a mistake, Thomas said.

“Those who think the Liberals are pro-worker because of Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces Better Jobs Act, should remember that it was not only labour and community activism that made the Liberals introduce it,” he said. “Just as important was the very real option the NDP offers at the ballot box.

“If we as a labour movement don’t support a strong NDP, we lose a big part of our leverage to make change,” Thomas said.

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931