President Thomas on TVO’s The Agenda to discuss Ontario’s new labour laws

Smokey Thomas
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OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas joined TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin this week to discuss the introduction of the Working for Workers Act and its reform of Ontario’s labour laws.

Thomas was joined by Martin Regg Cohn, political columnist with the Toronto Star, and Sheila Block, senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives to discuss some of the key components of the Act, and in particular, Ontario’s minimum wage increase.

While the panelists agreed that the wage hike is not enough, Thomas believes it’s better late than never, and shows that this government is finally listening.

“For the first time in dealing with three governments, we actually have a government that is listening and doing some very positive things for working people,” said Thomas. “I’ll fight with them when I need to, but I’ll give credit where credit is due.”

Thomas added that the union is still fighting with the Premier to repeal Bill 124 and its unconstitutional wage cap for public sector workers, and to increase ODSP and Ontario Works payments for people on social assistance, but says the good things this government are doing aren’t lost on him.

“It’s incrementalism,” said Thomas. “You get Premier Ford to move on one or two things and you keep pushing him on other things.

“I got elected to represent OPSEU members,” added Thomas. “And it’s my view that labour unions should remember who they got elected to represent and that’s the people who pay their dues, not a political party.”

When asked about next year’s provincial election, Thomas reiterated that he’s non-partisan and won’t endorse any political party.

“What I endorse is people getting educated on the issues, getting out to vote, go to all candidates meetings, and hold politicians accountable,” said Thomas. “But I will not endorse any party.”

By working in a non-partisan and collaborative way, Thomas says he’s been able make significant headway for OPSEU/SEFPO members and other front-line workers during the pandemic.

“When I have phoned [Ford] on issues of serious concern – whether it be long-term care inspectors, Ministry of Labour inspectors, or getting PPE in workplaces where bosses refused to do it – he has come through,” said Thomas.

To watch the full panel interview, please visit: https://www.tvo.org/video/assessing-ontarios-new-labour-laws