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Thomas: Time to put confrontation aside as we emerge from the pandemic

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas with a Toronto Sun logo.
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The following Op-Ed by OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas was published today in the Toronto Sun.

Thomas: Time to put confrontation aside as we emerge from the pandemic

“Come with open minds and open hearts because nobody has the market cornered on good ideas,” says Warren

One thing I’ve learned from a lifetime in the labour movement is to fight smart.

Fair. Firm. Friendly. It’s been more than my brand of leadership from the start. It’s the way I try to conduct myself on a daily basis.

Yes, there is a time for confrontation. And there is a long history of my union taking it to the streets when necessary, because change would come no other way.

But there is also a time for collaboration and consultation.

A sheathing of weapons. A calling to the table.

A time for government, business and labour to work together and to demand that we all put our best foot forward.

Now is that time.

The pandemic has taken a toll on everyone.

We are all exhausted. Frustrated. And yes, even desperate for a return to some sort of normal, even a new normal, whatever that is.

We have been bombarded by media experts, and still the right answers are elusive. After all, who can really claim to be an expert on a novel virus?

That level of competency is matter of time and experience.

So, what to do?

I believe the answer exists within our capacity to work together.

Throwing stones at each other is easy. Building a solid foundation? Well, that’s a little tougher.

So here is my plea to the premier.

Bring together Ontario’s best from government, business and labour and establish consultation and advisory tables targeted at our most pressing concerns, now and in the future.

Take time to listen to all constituencies without casting aspersions on ideas that don’t match our own biases.

Come with open minds and open hearts because nobody has the market cornered on good ideas.

I’ve heard enough to know that no matter what self interest folks have organizationally or politically, there are plenty of good ideas out there.

The alternative of course is to do the unthinkable and that is to continue to make political hay out of human misery and a tragedy that has hammered people around the globe for more than a year.

We all saw what happened with our neighbors to the south when the pandemic and politics were indistinguishable.

That’s not leadership. That’s opportunism.

There is no room left for that here. Time is too precious; life is too precious.

Together, we can fight smart and win, so that no one is left behind.

— Warren (Smokey) Thomas is president of OPSEU