McGuinty won't sign TILMA if it undermines labour standards

Promise to OPSEU in advance of Oct. 10 Ontario election

Toronto (3 Oct. 2007) - Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty says he will not sign the interprovincial Trade and Investment Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) if it would reduce standards for provincial workers.

In a five-page letter to the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) before Ontario's Oct. 10 election, McGuinty ruled out joining TILMA unless strict conditions are met.

The premier advised OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas that he would not sign the controversial agreement unless jobs and labour standards are protected. He also promised to consult both labour and business. His language was stronger than he has used previously when discussing the issue.

"Regarding the Trade and Investment Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA), let me assure you that our priority when studying any potential trade agreement is to ensure it would increase good jobs here in Ontario," McGuinty wrote in the Sept. 26 letter.

"We will not sign an agreement that would lower or would allow for the lowering of environmental, labour, health and safety standards for Ontario workers. We will not sign an agreement without first consulting with labour and business."

The letter also outlined the position of McGuinty's Liberal government on a series of other issues affecting public employees. Here are some excerpts:

Rebuilding the public service: "Let me assure you our government remains committed to building on the investments in our public service.... We believe that public, universally accessible health care provides Ontarians with the best health outcomes. That is why we are so surprised by John Tory's plan to use public dollars to fund the delivery of OHIP services in private clinics and hospitals. This will open the door to full privatization and two-tier health care."

Health care professionals: "We are especially proud of the progress we have made in the area of health care professionals.... We will continue to enhance the capacity of the system with investments in health care professionals and to maximize the potential of these professionals."

Pensions: "We believe that the establishment of the Ontario Expert Commission on Pensions is an important step toward ensuring that Ontarians can rely on their pensions and on keeping the province's pension system sustainable. I can personally assure you that we take this issue and the commission very seriously."

OPSEU sent a list of questions on election issues to all three Ontario party leaders.

NDP Leader Howard Hampton also responded, saying he would oppose TILMA under any circumstances.

"TILMA is a formidable instrument for de-regulation that will undermine the rights of working people," Hampton wrote.

"Labour standards and related measures are explicitly included as general exceptions to TILMA. This would allow companies to challenge labour standards like health and safety regulations and employment standards. Ontario’s NDP oppose any involvement in TILMA or any similar agreement."

Conservative Leader John Tory has yet to respond to the OPSEU request for policy positions on key election issues. NUPGE

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