Labour Day is all about celebrating people that work. This Labour Day, I’d like to add something to that: Let's also celebrate the public services that work for people.
The evidence is clear: public services work. It doesn't matter if you're talking about health care or education, jails or highways, environmental protection or violence-against-women services: when services are publicly owned and operated, they just work.
They work because they're focused on people, not profits. When private operators run services, greed seeps in. Costs shoot up. Quality and safety drop through the floor.
If you're an OPSEU member who provides a service that's been privatized or contracted out, you know what I'm talking about.
But I'm proud to say we're working hard to make people the focus of all our public services.
Our “We Own It” campaign is out in our communities building a movement of people fighting to keep our public services public. We’ve already got tens of thousands of supporters, including mayors, councillors, union leaders, and activists fighting with us.
We’re not just fighting to keep what we’ve already got. We’re also fighting to regain the services we’ve lost.
Our victories are already racking up. In communities across the province, we’re convincing our politicians that public equals better.
- In Timmins, they’re bringing snowplowing back in-house, saving money and adding a couple of well-paid jobs.
- In the communities across the province – from Ignace to Kemptville – people fought off a plan to close their public ServiceOntario Centres, which would have forced them to travel long distances, often to lower-quality private ServiceOntario centres.
- In Grey County, a large group of people and municipal politicians are pushing back hard against a scheme to privatize a high-quality public long-term care home.
- In Wasaga Beach, the community fought to keep their local hydro public – and won. They’ll reap the rewards of extra revenues for years to come.
This isn’t just a fight for city hall and Queen’s Park. Workers are also winning these fights at the bargaining table. On August 29, OPSEU College Support members ratified contract language that will give them a running start in the fight against contracting out.
All these wins are cause for celebration. When our public services are publicly owned and managed, we all reap the benefits.
The wins won’t always come easy. The profiteers and privateers we're up against are rich and powerful and connected. But if you’re at a Labour Day parade this weekend, look around. There are more of us than there are of them. We’re determined to win – and win we will.
So this long weekend, I hope you and your family will join me to celebrate not only people that work, but also the public services that work for people.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union
PS Visit weownit.ca to find out more about We Own It and why Public = Better