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Thousands join OPS teletown halls

Thousands of OPSEU members took part in four recent telephone town halls for workers in the Ontario Public Service (OPS). Two were held on February 9 for members of the Correctional Bargaining Unit. It will be bargaining for a new standalone collective agreement, to be effective January 1, 2018. Two more town halls took place on February 13 for Unified Bargaining Unit members.

OPSEU members Panel members take calls during the teletown halls for Unified members on February 13.

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said participation in the town halls shows that OPS members are taking a keen interest in this year’s bargaining.

“I was pleased by members’ response to these teletown halls, but not surprised,” said Thomas. “This government has relentlessly promoted a disastrous agenda of austerity and privatization that has weakened public services in every corner of this province.

OPSEU president Warren Thomas Warren (Smokey) Thomas
“Meanwhile, the government has made frontline public sector workers their convenient scapegoat,” he continued. “Our members are angry, and rightly so.”

The February 9 teletown halls for correctional workers featured remarks from Thomas and First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, as well as presentations from Corrections Employee Relations Chair Monte Vieselmeyer, Children and Youth Services Employee Relations Vice-Chair Pete Harding, OPSEU OPS supervisor Twila Marston, and OPSEU researcher Steve Crossman. All were available to field members’ questions submitted over the phone or online.

“As I expected, we had some good questions and some interesting discussion,” said Almeida after the town halls. “As a correctional officer, I know what it’s like on the front lines. I know what’s important to our members in terms of the crisis in corrections and reaching a fair settlement. And I know there’s a lot of question marks around arbitration and bargaining within that environment.

OPSEU vice-president Eduardo Almeida Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
“These teletown halls are a great exercise in communication and democracy. It was wonderful to be a part of them.”

The February 13 teletown halls addressed members of the Unified Bargaining Unit. The President and the First Vice-President/Treasurer were again present, as were Twila Marston and Steve Crossman. Acting Central Employee Relations Chair Mickey Riccardi was also on hand to answer questions.

During the town halls, Almeida stressed the union’s commitment to achieving an equitable collective agreement for Unified members.

“Smokey and I, the Executive Board Members, and the entire OPSEU team will be pulling out all the stops,” he said. “We’re going to ensure that Unified workers get what they deserve: a just and equitable deal that reflects our many sacrifices, our abilities, dedication, and hard work, as well as the mounting financial pressures that working Ontario families now face.

“It’s our time, folks.”

OPSEU Mickey Riccardi Mickey Riccardi
Thomas closed the town hall by putting the employer on notice that OPSEU will accept no “alternative facts” when it comes to the employer’s ability to pay.

“The latest round of eye-popping increases to OPS and broader public service managers’ salaries proves that the emperor has no clothes on the subject of wage restraint,” he said. “If this government can pay managers like that, it can well afford to compensate frontline workers for their hard work and service.

“It’s simply about fairness.”

Four OPSEU members (from l to r) Steve Crossman, Twila Marston, Monte Vieselmeyer, Pete Harding