Monday, October 26, 2009

OPSEU gets ready to fight “Dalton Days”

By Ian Connerty, guest columnist

The 115,000 member Ontario Public Service Employees Union is getting ready to fight the McGuinty government if it tries to make up some of its $25 billion deficit by laying off OPSEU members or forcing them to take unpaid days off.

“We are already planning a bold strategy to fight the coming attack,” said Warren ‘Smokey’ Thomas in a letter to all OSPEU members. “The Liberals’ plan is to make us pay. Premier Dalton McGuinty would not rule out unpaid days off for the million Ontarians who earn their bread in the provincial public sector. And the spectre of privatization now looms over every public service worker,” he continued.

This came in response to Premier McGuinty saying last week that he has not ruled out forcing Ontario Public Servants to take days off without pay and other suggestions that the government might look to privatize some of the work it does now.

Given that 80% of the $113 Billion provincial budget is spent on salaries, the Premier may have to embark on the biggest political fight of his life - against his own employees.

OPSEU responded; “As for more layoffs, they can only weaken local economies, destroy the services people need, and generate headlines the Liberals really don’t want to see.”

OPSEU has concluded that the Premier’s plan is to threaten layoffs and privatization of public service jobs to “force public employees to agree to the wage cuts or “Dalton Days” he wants.”

However, according to OPSEU such an arrangement, that was called “The Social Contract” by the Bob Rae government back in the 1990s when they forced OPSEU to take unpaid days off, would be struck down by the courts today.

They cite the case of BC Premier Gordon Campbell who attempted, in 2007, to legislate an end to collective agreements of BC health workers. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled against BC and as far as OPSEU is concerned, “collective bargaining has been recognized as a protected right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”


Watch out Dalton, OPSEU will take you to the Supreme Court if you try this. And remember what happened to Bob Rae. He ended up being humiliated and took the NDP to a third place finish in the next election after he instituted his infamous “Rae Days.”

Mr McGuinty looks poised to go down the same road as Mr. Rae in order to cut government spending. If he does, he risks facing the same result as Mr. Rae at the next election.