TORONTO–OPSEU’S First Vice-President-Treasurer is going to Queen’s Park on Monday to put the Ford government on notice its legislation to trample the collective bargaining rights of public sector workers could be yet another expensive boondoggle.
“Climate change. Hallway health care. The gender pay gap. The high cost of housing and record levels of personal debt. These are urgent issues the government should be focusing on,” said OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, who will be addressing the Standing Committee on General Government at Queen’s Park on Nov. 4.
“Instead, Premier Ford is continuing his war on working people, especially women and the services they provide. Like his goofy carbon-tax challenge, he is intent on wasting time, effort and possibly a lot of taxpayer dollars on a legal confrontation with workers — money that could be used to maintain and even strengthen services,” said Almeida.
“This is yet another ham-fisted bully move by a government that promised to set a new tone after coming out of hiding for the past five months. Sadly, rather than roll back his corporate tax cut scheme that is stealing billions from the public purse, this premier would rather bulldoze the rights of essential frontline workers, the majority of whom are women,” Almeida said. “I’ve got a message for you Mr. Ford: our union will take you on from now until your reign of error at Queen’s Park is ended. And trust me: it will end. Andrew Scheer might be able to shed some light as to how that works in Ontario.”
If passed, Bill 124 would cap the wage increases of frontline public sector workers at one per cent a year for three years. With its so-called “three-year moderation period,” it has the potential to impact collective bargaining for years after the next provincial election.
“Who knows what the economic situation of the day will be in 2025 or 2026? How is this fair or even reasonable?” said Almeida. “As someone who knows about setting budgets, I can say with certainty that crystal-ball economics is a fool’s game.”
“That’s the people’s money. It is scandalous that this government wasted it on more high-priced Bay Street lawyers during a so-called consultation period,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “That entire exercise was nothing more than a dog-and-pony show and we called it out for what it was. Money wasted on that circus is money that could have gone into vital frontline services.”
Almeida and Thomas say there’s no truth to the government’s claim that either public sector wages or the deficit are out of control.
“Both the deficit and public sector wage increases are much lower than Mr. Ford continues to claim,” said Almeida. “The deficit is half what the Premier claimed, and his government’s own statistics show that public sector wage increases have been lower than inflation in eight of the last 10 years.
“The truth matters,” said Almeida. “If Mr. Ford won’t willingly face the facts at Queen’s Park, OPSEU will force him to face the facts in two courts. And it’s the court of public opinion that will obliterate this gang come the next election. A couple years goes fast in politics, so don’t get too used to the taxpayer-funded perks. We didn’t pick this fight, but we won’t back down from it, either. Collective bargaining or directive bullying: the real people will decide.”