“Like most front-line public service workers, the last thing our members want to do is go on strike or endure a lockout. What we want is simple: a fair deal that puts students ahead of irresponsible slashing of services." ― Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President
Toronto (19 Sept. 2019) ― As thousands of OPSEU members and affiliates working as educational support staff in elementary, secondary, and adult-learning schools resumed bargaining on Friday September 13, Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) is vowing that they’ll do what is necessary to protect the students they serve.
Bargaining gives workers a voice
“Our members didn’t choose their career to get rich — they chose it because they care deeply and passionately about helping students,” said Thomas, whose members bargain as part of the Ontario Council of Educational Workers (OCEW) central table. “They help Ontario’s students every day in the classroom and at the bargaining table by standing up for quality public education.”
“Front-line educational workers are the experts in education. Free and fair collective bargaining gives them a real voice and ensures that their expertise is heard and honoured, whether it’s about class sizes, violence in the classroom, or decent wages and working conditions.”
Ontario govt. efforts to undermine bargaining unconstitutional
Thomas said the provincial government is attempting to undermine free and fair collective bargaining with its unconstitutional Bill 124, the proposed legislation that would cut public service wages by capping annual increases at just one per cent, which will likely be below inflation.
“Like most front-line public service workers, the last thing our members want to do is go on strike or endure a lockout,” said Thomas. “What we want is simple: a fair deal that puts students ahead of irresponsible slashing of services."
“Unfortunately, the provincial and federal Conservatives seem bent on weakening our public school system and rewarding the owners of private schools. We might find ourselves forced to fight with everything we’ve got, and that’s exactly what we’ll do.”
Public sector raises have not kept up with private sector
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU’s First Vice-President/Treasurer, says that a quick look at the numbers makes it clear as day that the Conservatives are being driven by ideology, not reality.
“Study after study shows that private sector workers are enjoying annual raises of 2 per cent or more,” said Almeida. “How can Mr. Ford — who has publicly boasted and taken credit for these wage increases — apply different logic to public sector workers and mandate them to accept half or less than that?
Workers require wages that keep pace with inflation
“Our members aren’t bargaining for CEO-sized raises. They just want to keep up with inflation so they can pay their bills and go to work free to concentrate on what matters most: giving students the kind of quality public education they deserve.”
“Ford is trying to lie low as the federal election heats up,” said Thomas. “But, if necessary, we are ready to withdraw our services and, if the premier decides on draconian back-to-work legislation, force him to reconvene his government early, putting his agenda and record squarely back on the public radar. All we are asking for is a fair deal for workers, students and their parents.”
The OCEW will be filing an application for conciliation with the Ministry of Labour, in the coming days in order to assist the parties through the next steps in the negotiation process.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE