OPSEU has entered a new era with last week’s election of a Conservative government and the road ahead brings new dangers.
That’s why taking care of first things first must be job one at OPSEU.
In the days since the election, I’ve taken a lot of phone calls from people who are worried about their jobs, about their community, and about their future.
While there is no point in panicking it is time to regroup.
Tory times are always tough times and we must stay strong and united.
We’ve had to stare down hostile governments before and we’ll do it again.
Last year when you re-elected me as your President, I campaigned under the banner of “now more than ever.”
I was thinking about a Patrick Brown led Tory government at the time. But in the blink of an eye this year the moderate Davis- light Tories were replaced by hard-right Doug Ford and his band of political refugees from Stephen Harper’s government.
Ironically, we now have a situation in Toronto and Queen’s Park where the mayor is an unsuccessful Tory candidate for premier, John Tory; and the Premier is an unsuccessful candidate for Toronto mayor, Ford.
Could it be any stranger?
One thing that you can count on is my determination to take the Conservatives on.
I’m not looking for a fight, but I’m going to make sure we’re ready for one.
We must be laser focused on public services, our communities, and our work.
Although Ford said during the election that no one will lose their job, he has left wiggle room for those folks occupying the same job with a different employer.
We just have to look at his support for the outsourcing of Toronto garbage when he was on city council and just last week he talked about putting everything out for bid.
We all know what that can mean. Privatization, reorganizing, and new rounds of collective bargaining.
Fortunately, last year thousands of OPSEU members voted themselves some security when they accepted four year contract extensions.
It’s true the Tories have a legislative hammer to try to force changes through, but that will be in the public arena where they might get a black eye.
Now is not the time to panic, it’s time to unite like never before.
We’ll be watching the financial audit Doug Ford has ordered. Usually new governments use audits as a tool to justify doing things that weren’t talked about during an election campaign.
We may see a wage and hiring freeze as some of the pundits have predicted.
The Tories may give us their worst while they’re early in their mandate or they may pull their punches to avoid undermining their federal cousins who face reelection next year.
As the old saying goes, a week is a lifetime in politics and we’re probably in for many lifetimes of chaos at Queen’s Park as competing interests battle for the ear of our new government.
Friends, change can be scary, but I’m not scared and you shouldn’t be either.
We will prevail and in four years OPSEU will be bigger and stronger than ever.
That I promise you.
Now more than ever.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union