'We will be creative in negotiating agreements that preserve public services and defend our members’ rights at the same time.' - Warren (Smokey) Thomas.
Toronto (26 March 2010) - Plans by the Ontario government to freeze public sector wages will hit women workers hardest, including many who already work in low-paid jobs, says the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE).
“The large majority of workers in the public sector are women and scores of thousands of them work in service jobs at the low-end of the wage spectrum,” OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas said Thursday after Finance Minister Dwight Duncan unveiled the 2010-11 Ontario budget.
“While we appreciate the minister’s statement that ‘public servants make a valuable contribution to the health and well-being of this province,’ we are disappointed that the government would declare, without consultation, that thousands of these workers will see their incomes go down for the foreseeable future, or lose their jobs," Thomas said. "It shows disrespect for their work and for their right to be treated fairly by their own government.”
The budget announced that, while the government will not seek to re-open collective agreements, it will not budget for any future increases in overall wage costs that are paid, directly or indirectly, by the province.
“Many OPSEU members in children’s aid societies and children’s mental health agencies are already working days for free to keep their employers afloat and to keep providing the services their communities need," Thomas said.
“It doesn’t strike me as right for the Minister of Finance to decree that a $30,000-a-year worker in a group home for the developmentally disabled should take a pay cut or a layoff while the Lexus-drivers on Bay Street are getting big bonuses this year, subsidized by the corporate tax cuts that every Ontarian is paying for.”
Thomas said budget figures show that cancelling the corporate income tax cuts, scheduled to take effect July 1, would save more than three times as much as the planned public sector wage cuts, according to budget figures.
OPSEU will bargain to mitigate the effects of today’s announcement, he said.
“Quite frankly when we go to the bargaining table the employer always says the cupboard is bare,” he added. “We will be creative in negotiating agreements that preserve public services and defend our members’ rights at the same time.”
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