OPSEU and the Ontario government have signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) that protects the jobs and salaries of contract and seasonal workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also allows them to be redeployed to other public sector positions.
The MOA is retroactive to April 6, 2020, and continues until May 31, with the possibility of extension. It covers contract (or “fixed-term”) OPS employees whose hours of work have been reduced or otherwise affected by the pandemic because the work they performed no longer exists or cannot be done from home. It also covers seasonal workers, such as those called to work in Ontario’s parks.
The agreement ensures these workers will be not be penalized in terms of what they would have been paid if their jobs were not affected by the pandemic.
The MOA also allows for the redeployment of contract and seasonal workers to other positions in the Ontario Public Service and the Broader Public Service, where they would continue to receive their current wages and benefits. If the job they are moved to is eligible for the $4-an-hour and monthly lump sum of $250 in pandemic pay, they will also receive that. All required training and personal protective equipment will be provided.
Contract employees are under no obligation to accept redeployment. If offered redeployment and they decline it, they can choose to be laid off for the purposes of receiving government aid and return to work at the end of the lockdown.
“This is a great example of the union and the employer coming together to protect workers and their families, and maintain vital public services where they’re most needed,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “Our fixed-term and seasonal OPS members will not be forced out of work or be paid less, unless they so choose. This is a big win for workers and the people of this province.”
OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida praised the spirit of collaboration that led to the MOA. “In times like this, there’s no more ‘them or us’ – it’s just plain ‘us,’” he said. “The union saw an urgent need to protect the livelihoods of the most vulnerable members of the OPS, while making it possible for the government to harness their strength where it’s most needed.
“It’s the kind of constructive, progressive thinking we need – not just now, but always.”