TORONTO, July 27, 2015 /CNW/ - Premier Kathleen Wynne has seen the light. As the federal election campaign heats up, Wynne asked the leaders of teachers' unions and representatives of school board associations to attend a "goodwill" meeting last Friday morning in an effort to restart negotiations.
"Not getting back to bargaining is an abdication of our responsibility," Wynne declared in a statement. In the wake of the meeting, Education Minister Liz Sandals announced that talks will resume with unions representing 115,000 Ontario teachers.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas was surprised by the government's abrupt change of heart. "It's great that the Liberals are suddenly assuming their responsibilities," he said. "How about their responsibility to the province's 35,000 Ontario public sector workers. Why have we not been given the benefit of her 'goodwill'?"
OPSEU-represented workers have been without a collective agreement since December 31. After a two-year wage freeze, the Liberal government is demanding a four-year extension of the freeze, and adding significant cuts to the pay scale and benefits.
"All we're seeking is a fair settlement; one that respects our work and the fact that we have already paid our fair share."
While a strike by teachers would affect more than two million elementary and secondary students, a strike by public servants would affect 14 million Ontario residents. "Who's going to ensure our water is safe to drink?" asked Thomas. "Who's going to inspect our meat? Who's going to make sure Ontario's 60,000 offenders, including sex offenders and pedophiles, are kept behind bars, out of our neighbourhoods, away from our kids?"
The government walked away from the bargaining table in February and has turned a deaf ear to OPSEU's repeated requests to resume talks.
"The Premier says compromise is possible if the teachers come back to the table," Thomas said. "We never left the table, but Wynne won't give her workers the time of day, let alone a square deal. From the start, we have been prepared to bargain a collective agreement, while it seems the Premier is intent on heading down the road towards what will be a nasty strike. She needs to get focused on bargaining now rather than the electoral prospects of her federal cousins."
SOURCE Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)
For further information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931