'The only place for this dialogue is at the bargaining table or, where that fails, at arbitration.' - Warren (Smokey) Thomas.
Toronto (22 July 2010) - Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan’s plan to cut the province’s budget deficit fails three key tests, says the president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE).
“The members of our union will support a deficit-reduction strategy that is fair to people, protects the public services Ontarians need and strengthens our economy,” says Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “The government’s plan fails all three of these tests.”
Thomas and other labour leaders met with Duncan this week to discuss deficit reduction plans. However, the minister announced nothing that was not already contained in the March 25 budget. He did hint at further meetings with unions later this summer.
Thomas says the austerity plan - a freeze that would have the effect of cutting public sector salaries by the rate of inflation - is unfair to public employees who did nothing to create the economic crisis that caused the deficit.
“Under Dwight Duncan’s proposal, a part-time worker making $20,000 a year in a group home will sacrifice an extra $400 a year to reduce the deficit, while an RBC investment banker making $12 million a year won’t pay a penny. This is clearly unfair and the minister needs to address it.”
Thomas says the minister also lacks any plan to protect public services from deficit-cutting. Hundreds of layoffs are planned in the Ontario Public Service alone and hundreds more are happening in hospitals, he noted.
All this is happening after 10 years of crisis in vital Ontario social services, he adds.
“In this province we have children’s aid societies facing bankruptcy and children with mental health issues who grow up before they can get help,” Thomas says.
"As a society we are failing our citizens and our children. We have to stop punishing innocent victims, deficit or no deficit.”
Thomas also argues that cutting public sector wages will harm the economic recovery at a critical time.
"Cutting back on those wages can only slow down the recovery and extend the time it takes to pay down the deficit,” he says,
"OPSEU is in favour of dialogue with the government but any dialogue must respect the rules of free collective bargaining," he adds. "“As far as we’re concerned, the only place for this dialogue is at the bargaining table or, where that fails, at arbitration. That’s where we’ll be focusing our energies.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 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