The province has tabled a new contract offer in hopes of keeping thousands of public service workers from striking, but a local union president isn’t sure it will garner any more support than the one they rejected last week.
Bob Dakin, president of Ontario Public Service Employees Union Local #711, said that while he wasn’t part of the negotiating team and hadn’t seen the complete offer, he didn’t think much had changed from the previous one which 88 percent of union members voted against last week.
“It’s a lot of general statements,” Dakin said.
The new offer has not moved from its 1.95 percent wage hike each year of the three-year agreement, nor has it changed its position on pay-for-performance rewards, which OPSEU leaders worry could be given only to management favourites.
“The people of Ontario want a professional public service that is fairly compensated for delivering quality provincial services,” David Tsubouchi, chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, said in a press release.
“I think our new offer does that.”
“The fact that they put it out to the general public is a little disturbing,” noted Dakin, citing the mediated talks were suppose to be confidential.
In its press release, the province said OPSEU’s wage, pension, and benefits demands would cost the government $900 million over two years—and that they simply couldn’t afford it.
“The average OPSEU employee already earns $44,900 compared to the Ontario average earnings of $36,900,” Tsubouchi noted.
“OPSEU’s salaries are competitive, especially when combined with generous benefits and pensions [which the province says bumps salaries up to $56,158].
“That’s why our offer makes sense,” Tsubouchi added.
“I’d like to know where they got those numbers,” Dakin responded. “The actual average workers make is much lower than that.”
Dakin said the province took the highest and lowest income numbers available to make this claim, and that they are citing gross pay and not the actual pay employees take home.
“If I was taking home that amount of money, salary wouldn’t be a problem,” he said.
“There’s a misconception of the Ontario public that the Ontario public service is overpaid, and that is not the case by any stretch of the imagination,” Dakin argued.
Talks are continuing, although OPSEU will be in a legal strike position March 13. The last time its members went on strike was for five weeks in 1995.