On April 30, the eve of the provincial budget, an estimated 2,000 unionized Ontario Public Service employees rallied in an unprecedented show of unity at lunch time outside Queen's Park. They had a joint message for the Kathleen Wynne government: show respect and fairness to your hard-working employees.
Members of the Association of Law Officers of the Crown (ALOC), OPSEU, and PEGO (Professional Engineers Government of Ontario) rallied alongside AMAPCEO members who face deep cuts to their contract. The presidents of all four unions spoke to the crowd.
The government wants to cut paramedical coverage and Long-Term Income Protection (LTIP) and reduce salary progression for AMAPCEO members. If these concessions aren't fought off, they will likely come to the other unions' bargaining tables, including OPSEU's. OPSEU's contract expires at the end of December with bargaining scheduled to begin in November.
"The employer continues to show unrelenting aggression when it comes to our contract," said Gary Gannage, President of AMAPCEO. "I'm here to tell the Premier: we are coming together as OPS employees like never before to halt the employer's attack on all of us."
A contingent of OPSEU members from at least 10 different OPS Locals in the downtown core came out to show their support for AMAPCEO.
"The 130,000 members of my union send greetings and solidarity to AMAPCEO: we stand with you," said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas.
Leaks to the media in advance of the budget suggest the Liberals will unveil a few signature policy items that are progressive, along with the continued promotion of privatization as a means to generate revenue.
President Thomas said OPSEU is concerned about the Liberals' privatization agenda and its rough treatment of AMAPCEO.
"I don't know many members who will strike for a 2 or 4 per cent wage increase, but I know all working people will strike for their jobs and privatization threatens all of our jobs," he said.
The employer has requested a 'no board' which would trigger a 17-day timeline to a legal lockout by the employer or strike by AMAPCEO.
President Thomas told the rally to big cheers that if AMAPCEO goes on strike or is locked out, OPSEU members will not perform struck work and will respect all picket lines.
"Kathleen Wynne: have a heart," said President Thomas. "You should be ashamed of yourself."
The rally ended with all four leaders signing the OPS Solidarity Pact to protect public services and ensure good jobs, fair contracts, liveable wages and decent benefits for employees, retirees and their families. The crowd chanted "solidarity works" for several minutes as the leaders signed the Pact.