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Open letter from OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas to OMA president-elect Sohail Gandhi

OPSEU Community Health Care Professionals

President Thomas sent the letter below to Dr. Sohail Gandhi, president-elect of the Ontario Medical Association, in response to two blog entries that Dr. Gandhi posted in July. Both entries speak to OPSEU and the members of Local 276 in Owen Sound, who have been on strike since May 22.

August 8, 2018

Dr. Sohail Gandhi
Ontario Medical Association
900 – 150 Bloor Street West
Toronto, Ontario  M5S 3C1

Dear Dr. Gandhi:

I write to respond to your blogs of July 27, 2018, “’Smokey’ Thomas fails his members,” and July 17, 2018, “Smokey should put out fires, not start them.”

In them, you reveal a level of ignorance that exceeds even what you put in your disclaimers, namely, “I have not spoken with any of the Family Doctors in Owen Sound about this situation… All of my thoughts are strictly based on reports in the media, and news releases”; and “I actually don’t know any of the doctors in the FHO in Owen Sound. I’m also not familiar with the situation there.”

Dr. Gandhi, your confessed ignorance of the situation in Owen Sound and the players involved should have stopped any reasonable and responsible person from commenting. That you – the future president of the OMA – proceeded to make outrageous accusations and condemnations against the workers and their union is shocking and unacceptable.

Let me start with your ridiculous assertion that “OPSEU and Smokey have absolutely no experience in dealing with intimate small office settings.” In fact, OPSEU represents thousands of members in small-office settings and has a wealth of experience over decades looking out for their best interests and those of the clients they serve.

You claim that, because the bargaining team’s first tentative agreement was turned down by the workers, OPSEU’s leadership was “clearly repudiated.” In fact, our bargaining teams are drawn from the membership. It was members who arrived at a first deal and it was the rest of the members who rejected it.

You state as fact that “30 FHO staff got wise to what a lousy job Smokey and OPSEU were doing, and actually quit their jobs.” This is an incendiary characterization of the situation, with no basis in the truth. And yet you claim it is I who has taken lessons from Donald Trump!

Furthermore, you propose no solutions, aside from vague notions of collegiality, cordiality and co-operation. Sir, it takes two to tango. All of those concepts require a commitment from both sides. Having the employer dictate the working conditions to their employees is neither collegial nor cordial nor co-operative.

Beyond that, I am astounded that you, who will head what is essentially the union of Ontario physicians, engage in senseless rhetoric to assail the whole purpose of a union. “Targeting employers is an old union tactic,” you say. Dr. Gandhi, I ask you: who else are unions to target, if not the employer?

With each new paragraph, you reveal an egregious lack of knowledge of the labour movement. Frankly, I find it alarming that you have been elected president.

But worse than all of that is your deplorable and unforgiveable lack of judgement. Notwithstanding your position and your admitted ignorance of a given situation, you have expressed opinions in the public forum – and in a very one-sided and prejudicial manner –that seriously undermine your own ability and worthiness to lead the OMA and compromise the valued and long-standing relationship built over decades between physicians and the labour movement.

In my view, you have forfeited your right to be the next president of the OMA, and you should step aside. The OMA is simply too big and too important to the people of Ontario and its physicians to allow anyone but the best and brightest to lead it.


Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union

c: Dr. Nadia Alam, President, OMA
    Dr. Timothy Nicholas, Chair, OMA Board of Directors
    The Honourable Christine Elliott, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care

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