Union Fallout Follows Ontario Election

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Northern Leaders Debate at the Valhalla Inn to a sold out audience of over 350 people.
Northern Leaders Debate at the Valhalla Inn to a sold out audience of over 350 people.

Ontario Politics

Unifor and OPSEU Exchange Barbs

THUNDER BAY – Labour unions in Ontario have entered into an unusual battle. Earlier in the week, the Ontario Public Service Union (OPSEU) President Smokey Thomas stated that Unifor was “played” and that the union leaders “sold their soul” in voting Liberal.

Thomas asserts, “Across Ontario, OPSEU members voted in support of public services. They voted against cuts and right-wing threats to take us back to the past. Some worked on campaigns, put up lawn signs and took part in other political acts. We should feel good about this work, just as we must accept the election results in 107 ridings. We will respect the process and the candidates that won and lost. It is not easy to be a candidate for any public office”.

However Thomas went further, “The labour movement was so afraid of Tim Hudak being elected that they sold their souls to the Liberals”.

Now Unifor is firing back. Responding to OPSEU leader Smokey Thomas’s allegations that union leaders who backed Liberals had been “played” and “sold their souls”, Dias said: “There is no question that our members’ decision to do everything possible to prevent the election of Conservative Tim Hudak was the smart and responsible thing to do. As a result of our decision, we protected 100 000 public service jobs and workers’ rights that Hudak was bent on destroying.”

Jerry Dias, Unifor National President, reiterated his belief that the union’s decision to support strategic voting was in the best interest of working people and communities in Ontario.

“Frankly, it is because of Unifor and other labour organizations that thousands of OPSEU members still have jobs,” said Dias. “No wonder, so many public service workers have thanked Unifor for our leadership.”

Dias also expressed his concern that prior to the election Thomas had proposed to the Wynne Liberals that the government sell the LCBO to OPSEU’s pension plan and its private sector partner. “Privatization of the LCBO would mean thousands of OPSEU members would be out of a job – and the people of Ontario would lose a valuable public asset. What in the world is going on when the head of OPSEU is secretly calling for privatization?” challenged Dias.

Dias noted that Premier Kathleen Wynne announced earlier in the week that she would not be legislating wage restraint in the public service or broader public service. “The Premier reiterated her commitment to the collective bargaining process. Hopefully, when Thomas gets to the table he will have the vision, leadership and skill to represent his members well,” said Dias. “But it’s no surprise his members are feeling worried about whether he has savvy and commitment to do that.”

Unifor stressed that it is determined to push the Wynne government to ensure its healthcare workers get the wage and benefit increases they desperately need and deserve.

“We are under no illusion that we will have to work very hard to ensure the Wynne government does what is in the best interest of working people and Ontario communities,” said Dias. “But we feel confident that we can do that – and we know for certain, that we are all far better off negotiating with Kathleen Wynne than Tim Hudak,” stressed Dias.

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