The latest bargaining and mobilizing news for OPS members
Bargaining teams preparing for negotiations
After a week-long training session, your OPS bargaining teams are now well under way with preparations for the upcoming round of negotiations.
Training was an intensive week for the teams, and everyone came away informed and ready to get down to dealing with the issues the OPS will face in this round. Members learned about bargaining history in the OPS, legal issues, things they may expect from the employer and how political pressure plays out at the table. Staff experts on benefits, pensions, bargaining unit integrity and equity gave presentations. There were also in-depth discussions on member mobilizing, communications as well as practical exercises concerning how the teams will function in caucus and at the bargaining table.
Team members have now begun the huge task of studying the local demands and priorities for this coming round. This will keep the teams busy in the coming weeks as they prepare the documents to present to the employer at the first day of face-to-face talks on November 5.
Obviously, the biggest issue facing the teams is the government announcement on September 26 that they will legislate a wage freeze for all public-sector employees. OPSEU has condemned this move, questioning the legality of the legislation and demanding that the government allow collective bargaining to take place without legal restrictions on what can actually be negotiated.
“Our members fully understand the economic situation we are in,” OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said in a press release September 28. “No one is making any exorbitant demands. Yet before negotiations ever take place, the government wants to pass a law that freezes wages, virtually nullifies the right to strike and that gives them the ability to impose contracts. And (Finance Minister) Duncan doesn’t even know if it’s legal.”
More will be known in the weeks ahead as the government moves forward on their so-called “austerity” agenda. The teams will then have a better grasp on how this affects their efforts on gaining a new OPS collective agreement.
Member mobilizers set to start October 22
Under the OPS Collective Agreement, OPSEU is allowed to book off, in addition to the bargaining teams, 27 members to assist us during OPS bargaining. Our 27 OPS member mobilizers will begin working throughout their regions beginning Oct. 22.
The mobilizers’ main task will be to reach out to OPS members and give them the “real facts” about the economy, the deficit and how it relates to public services. They will also educate the members about the threats to wages, benefits, pensions and job security. One goal is to create easy ways for members to share these messages through social media to family and friends.
These mobilizers are an integral part of bargaining, and their work will assist the teams by creating an educated, informed and engaged membership, which in turn empowers the teams at the table.
" We have made our sacrifice "
A message from your OPS Team chairs
On Wednesday, September 26, Minister of Finance Dwight Duncan announced the introduction of the “Protecting Public Services Act.” This act would serve to impose a wage freeze and more on nearly 500,000 public sector workers.
Minister Duncan said the legislation would match the restrictions imposed on the teachers and public sector managers and executives, yet preserve the right to strike. He explained a union may strike, but once an agreement is “set” work resumes as normal. When questioned by the media on his meaning of “set”, he said he didn’t have a thesaurus and couldn’t find another word, however the silent message was clear.
Dwight Duncan assured the media that the draft act gives unions the opportunity to bargain first, “This very much respects collective bargaining”. On the right to strike, Duncan said, “The right to strike is preserved here.” Which is a half-truth given that, “All settlements will be approved against the criteria.” What he refused to say was if collective agreement negotiations don’t mirror the legislation, the government will force the restrictions and bring the hammer down on the right to freely bargain, as set out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In an attempt to reassure the public, Duncan stated that the act will “build and maintain jobs as we eliminate the deficit”. He also added, “This bill will ensure we can protect those jobs and services.”
The confident, reassuring words from the minister do not reflect the hundreds of layoff notices that have been handed to our members over the past week.
Over the last two years, residents of Ontario have seen drastic cuts to the services they have come to expect. Wait times have increased, services have been eliminated and reliable programs have been removed due to over 3,000 jobs that have been eliminated. Here’s a partial list of the cuts to public services:
- Closure of Thistletown – a renowned facility designed to help families with special needs children
- Closure of Ontario Place
- Closure of four ServiceOntario counters by Nov. 30: Chatham, Oshawa, 400 Dufferin St. in Toronto, Newmarket
- A further closure of 22 ServiceOntario counters (all in the North except for Stratford) likely within a year
- Elimination of 19 Employment Standards Officers across the province, putting vulnerable workers at risk
- 124 layoffs at the Ministry of Natural Resources, as a result of the elimination of visitor services to ten Provincial Parks including overnight camping and the cancellation of the Ontario Ranger program
- Jail closures: Walkerton and Owen Sound Jails closed; Sarnia Jail and Toronto West Detention Centre slated to close
- Elimination of the Special Services at Home Program for adults with developmental disabilities.
- Delays in processing vital court documents like restraining orders, divorce papers and court orders for child and spousal support.
- Inability to provide timely and accurate information to enforcement officers monitoring road and vehicle safety.
- Elimination of staff responsible for ensuring local governments follow legislation when delivering tens of millions of dollars in social assistance.
- Drinking water inspectors cut in London, Windsor, Ajax and Cornwall.
- Elimination of inspectors associated with the Lead in Drinking Water program.
- Elimination of several scientists and technical experts on air and water quality.
- Reduction in the number of staff regulating pay day loan companies, collection agencies and credit bureaus.
- Delays in processing claims from health care providers.
- Cuts to the preservation of Ontario’s culture
- Closure of some Tourism Ontario counters
In addition, the government is planning on selling ServiceOntario to private investors. Why would the government privatize an organization that delivers critical services, protects the privacy of our personal information and annually collects $2.7 billion in revenue for the province?
The job cuts will continue. The government has stated they will eliminate 4,900 positions in the Ontario Public Service, which they say will save them $500 million annually. If that’s true, then they have already saved $300 million on the backs of our members. And now, they want to take more money out of the pockets of those that are left.
We have a message for the Ontario government and Finance Minister Dwight Duncan: We have made our sacrifice. A wage freeze is not a freeze. It is a pay cut equal to the rate of inflation. We demand that free collective bargaining continue in our province in an effort to preserve public services.
Roxanne Barnes, Chair, OPS Central/Unified Team
Dan Sidsworth, Chair, OPS Corrections Team
Central/Unified Team firstname.lastname@example.org
Corrections Team email@example.com
Don’t listen to rumours! TableTalk Update is your only official communication from the OPS Bargaining Teams.
Your OPS Bargaining teams
|Roxanne Barnes, Chair||CERC|
|Ron Langer, Vice-Chair||Region 1|
|Elaine Young,||Region 2|
|Tammy Carson||Region 3|
|Daryl O’Grady||Region 4|
|Edie Strachan||Region 5|
|Pierre Verhelst||Region 6|
|John Watson||Region 7|
|Cindy Falcao||Institutional and Health Care|
|Betty Marchegiano||Office Administration|
|Shelley McCormick||Office Administration|
|Cam Jay||Operational & Maintenance/Technical|
|Jeff Weston||Fixed Term|
|Ruth Hamilton||Staff Negotiator|
|Trish Goden||Region 1|
|Dan Sidsworth,||Chair Region 2|
|Glenna Caldwell,||Vice-Chair Region 3|
|Brian Dunham||Region 4|
|Monte Vieselmeyer||Region 5|
|Jim Mitchell||Region 6|
|Greg Arnold||Region 7|
|Rob Field||Staff Negotiator|
Original authorized for distribution:
Roxanne Barnes, Chair Central/Unified Team
Dan Sidsworth, Chair Corrections Team
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President Ontario Public Service Employees Union