OPSEU President Says ‘Pandemic has spurred a seismic shift’

OPSEU has opened their new headquarters on Memorial Avenue in Thunder Bay.

TORONTO – A poll by Nanos Research on Ontario’s Public Service workers was music to the ears of OPSEU President Smokey Thomas.

Workers in Ontario represented by OPSEU have in many cases been on the frontlines during the pandemic.

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says, “Since I began my career working in the public service as a mental health nurse, our union has worked hard to persuade the public of the value of the services we provide. I’ve seen a lot of polls measuring people’s attitudes about public services over that time.

“But I’ve never seen results like the ones on a survey OPSEU asked pollster Nik Nanos to do late last month. The pandemic has spurred a seismic shift in the way Ontarians think about public services and public service workers. We have never been more appreciated for the incredible value and importance we bring to the table, our contributions to public health and safety and our role in stimulating the economy. Ontarians are ready to invest in public services, protect them, and ask the wealthy to contribute their fair share.”

The poll was commissioned by OPSEU.

Here are the Top 5 highlights:

  1. More than three out of four Ontarians want a post-pandemic economic recovery built on investment in strong public services and the front-line workers who provide them. 76 percent agree or somewhat agree that “maintaining public services and public service jobs is an important way to support the economy and keep people employed.” Poll page: 50 

  2. Nearly three-quarters of Ontarians don’t want government to reduce a post-pandemic deficit by cutting public services. 72 percent “oppose” or “somewhat oppose” reducing the deficit with “cuts to public services such as social services, job training, enforcement of regulations, etc.” Instead, 81 percent “support” and “somewhat support” raising taxes on the wealthy, while 76 percent “support” and “somewhat support” raising corporate taxes. Poll page: 22 

  3. Ontarians are nearly unanimous that the government’s immediate priority should be strengthening our health and long-term care systems. 98 percent say long-term care should be a focus for this government, while 96 percent say health care generally should be a priority for the Ford government coming out of the pandemic. Poll page: 15 

  4. As the previous point showed, 98 percent of Ontarians want the government to fix long-term care. We then asked Ontarians what they think the first step in fixing long-term care should be. They provided a range of answers including more frequent inspections, higher staffing, a public inquiry, and bringing all privately owned long-term care homes back under public control. Poll page: 39 

  5. Seven out of 10 Ontarians say we should prioritize fixing long-term care and other public services over tackling the deficit. And when it comes to privatizing Crown corporations like the LCBO in order to reduce the deficit, twice as many “oppose” the idea as “support” it. Poll pages: 15 and 22.

Thomas says, “As you can see, improving long-term care is a top priority right now. No wonder: the vast majority of Ontario’s COVID-19 deaths have been in our long-term care homes. As of yesterday, the toll was approaching 1,800 residents and five workers, most of them in privately owned or managed facilities.

“Thousands of OPSEU members work on the front-lines of long-term care. They know the problems and they know the dangers because they live with them every day of their working lives. They know what’s wrong, and they know how to make it right.”

OPSEU is presenting Premier  Ford with its recommendations on starting to fix a system that the union says is in desperate need of reconfiguration.

“I’m confident the Premier will take our recommendations seriously. Throughout the pandemic, he has rightly hailed as heroes the front-line workers in long-term care, health care, and all other public services,” states Thomas.  “Now it’s time for him to act on their specific recommendations, which are supported by the clear direction given in the Nanos poll. Ontarians want a recovery and a new normal built on strong public services, respect for front-line workers, and fair taxes for all.”