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OPSEU President: Bill 195 is a needless infringement on workers’ democratic rights

Smokey Thomas speaking at meeting

Statement on Bill 195 from OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas:

Throughout the pandemic, Ontario’s front-line workers have stepped up. But Bill 195 threatens to interfere with OUR constitutionally guaranteed collective bargaining rights.

Workers understand that this pandemic has changed the way we have to live and the way we have to work. We understand the need for flexible services and the need for employers to be able to pivot in a crisis. We also know that while most employers understand the concept of supporting their workforce, there remains some unscrupulous employers who will be tempted to negate hard-fought contractual rights. In other words, the pandemic is no excuse for attacking the democratic rights of every citizen and every worker in the province. 

Bill 195, now the law in Ontario, potentially grants the government too much power with too little accountability and oversight.

My union and I urge Cabinet to make very limited use of the powers it has given itself – if it ever feels there is potential need to amend or extend orders that violate workers’ collective bargaining rights, it must only do so after open and ongoing consultation with workers and their unions and full debate in the legislature. It must never be behind closed doors or under the guise of an emergency that may be resolved by the normal course of mature labour relations.

We also urge Cabinet to resist the temptation to extend Bill 195 beyond one year – respect for workers and their rights must be a foundation of the “new normal” that will follow this pandemic. Without heroic front line workers prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for the citizens of this province, undemocratic statutes become barriers, not passages, to cooperation.

COVID-19 has already made life more difficult for Ontario’s workers, particularly those workers who are women and/or racialized. Many have lost their jobs or seen their hours drastically cut. Many others have had to take time off or leave the workforce altogether to care for their children or elderly family members. Some have been infected and have even died while serving on the front-lines.

These workers deserve the government’s thanks and support, not this potential infringement of their rights. I urge Premier Ford and his government to respect workers, their health and safety, and their constitutional rights ascribed to collective bargaining as we work together to get Ontario through this pandemic. We are in this together. We will do our part. The government must hold up its end of the deal.

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