TORONTO, March 4, 2019 /CNW/ - Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the Ontario Public Service Union (OPSEU), is concerned with the behaviour of Ontario Racing and the not-for-profit Woodbine Entertainment Group, who have been entrusted by the Ontario Liberals to manage nearly $2 billion dollars over twenty years that is supposed to support horse racing in rural Ontario.
Recently, Woodbine Entertainment Group and Ontario Racing gave the Ontario Harness Horse Association (OHHA) just sixty days notice that the organization will no longer be responsible for managing the health, insurance and retirement benefits of standardbred horsepeople in Ontario.
Instead, Ontario Racing has mandated that the Woodbine-created Central Ontario Standardbred Association, which presently only represents horsepeople at Woodbine Mohawk Park, will now be responsible for all standardbred horsepeople in Ontario. This decision was made without a democratic vote by horsepeople or any consultations on the topic.
OHHA was founded in 1962 and has passionately represented the interests of standardbred horsepeople across the province since, including in negotiations with racetracks and all levels of government. OHHA's work has sustained tens of thousands of agricultural jobs for a diverse set of men and women across rural Ontario that support horse racing, and encouraged billions to be reinvested in rural communities.
"Horsepeople in Ontario rely on the Ontario Harness Horse Association to fight for the interests of their industry and negotiate to protect the wellbeing of standardbred horsepeople across the province. What Woodbine Entertainment Group and Ontario Racing are doing is no different than union busting, and they need to be stopped," said Kent Baker, longtime owner, trainer, and breeder in Ontario. "OHHA fights for the interests of the men and women who work hard each and every day across this province to support horse racing. Many of these individuals are excellent at what they do, but lack easily transferable employment skills. They will be the casualties of a Woodbine centric horse racing industry."
"The government's first mistake was entrusting Woodbine Entertainment Group, an organization whose handling of funds meant to support horse racing have long been the subject of intense scrutiny by media and government, to look after the interests of all horse racing money for the government. They probably could not have come up with a less responsible party in the industry to manage those funds if they had tried", said Smokey Thomas, President of OPSEU. "This is worse than asking the fox to watch the hen house. The previous government forced the hens to move in with this fox. Doug Ford has claimed to care about rural Ontario, well this is his chance to prove it," Thomas added.
OPSEU is joining OHHA's call for Ontario Racing and Woodbine Entertainment Group to withdraw their April 1, 2019 direction and are asking the provincial government to intervene if Ontario Racing and Woodbine Entertainment Group won't do the right thing.
SOURCE Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)
For further information: Lindsay Macaulay, The Broadview Team, 647-748-3300