TORONTO – The union representing 35,000 frontline Ministry employees who work directly for the Ontario government announced Thursday that two of the three bargaining tables negotiating for a new collective agreement are on a “bargaining hiatus” under the recommendation of the conciliator appointed by the Ministry of Labour.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said that the conciliator recommended the union bargaining teams for the Central agreement (covering all Ontario Public Service (OPS) members) and the Unified Wage Category table (covering all non-Corrections employees) and the employer representatives take a break to “re-evaluate their bargaining positions.” This was in order to avoid what would likely have been a bargaining impasse, paving the way for a potential strike or lockout.
“Our teams remain available to bargain,” Thomas said. “However, the government needs to re-think their position of wage freezes and massive concessions. The two sides aren’t just far apart…the government is on a different planet.”
Despite erroneous reports in the media, a strike is not “looming” nor have talks been called off, Thomas said.
“A lot of legal steps must take place before a strike is even possible, including the negotiation of essential service agreements for over 1,400 OPS worksites,” Thomas said. “Even though we have a 90 per cent strike mandate, our goal is to negotiate a fair contract for our members. The members deserve it, and the public deserves to have a government that behaves responsibly with taxpayer money, instead of cutting public sector jobs, benefits and wages then wasting billions on private contractors. If the government doesn’t re-evaluate their thinking, this province will enter a period of labour unrest not seen since the Harris years.”
The current collective agreement for all OPS employees expired Dec. 31, 2014.