Laughing at what the province described as a “positive offer,” members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union are expected to reject the contract offered by management and put themselves in a strike position next month.
“Our take on it is that it is garbage,” said OPSEU Local #711 president Bob Dakin. “It’s an insult to us. It’s garbage, and we’re going to be telling our members to vote no.”
OPSEU, which represents 45,000 employees across Ontario, including 4,000 in Northwestern Ontario, has been in contract talks with the province since Dec. 17.
The union’s current three-year contract expired Dec. 31.
If members vote at the end of the month to reject the contract offer, they will be in a legal strike position March 13.
The province said its offer of a 1.95 percent a year wage hike over the next three years—as opposed to the 24 percent increase over three years being sought by the union—is more than fair.
“We have worked very hard to present a positive offer to OPSEU members,” Management Board chair David Tsubouchi said in a press release.
Tsubouchi also said the offer is consistent with a recent settlement with the Professional Engineers, Government of Ontario (PEGO), and the tentative agreement reached with the Association of Management, Administrative and Professional Crown Employees of Ontario (AMAPCEO).
“With a potential deficit in the billions of dollars next year as a worse-case scenario, this government must be mindful of the economic and fiscal realities facing the province,” Tsubouchi noted.
“The taxpayers of Ontario expect their government to exercise responsible stewardship of their money. We intend to honour that trust.”
But Dakin said the pay increase is non-existent.
“After we stopped laughing at it, we were very incensed,” he said. “We’re not even keeping pace with inflation.”
OPSEU is even more concerned with proposed changes to the pension plan, which currently is being managed jointly by the province and union. Dakin said the plan had been running a surplus recently and the union was using that money to allow people to retire earlier.
“By allowing people to retire earlier, it opens up more jobs for recent graduates,” he reasoned.
But in its offer, the province wants to change the pension plan so the surplus is not used in this manner. The province charges that overall benefit costs will double in the next four years.
OPSEU president Leah Casselman, who will be in Fort Frances tomorrow, said that’s no reason to hold back early retirements.
“Preventing people from retiring is not an ethical way to deal with the fact that you can’t recruit new people to work in the public service,” she said in a press release.
Another issue being contested is performance incentives. The province, which is offering a 0.5 percent lump sum at the end of the year for its most productive employees, said the program “recognizes excellence on the job.”
But Dakin said with that money going directly to supervisors to be handed out, it is impossible to ensure the most productive will receive the rewards.
“It really amounts to supervisors rewarding their friends in the workforce,” he charged. “It will have nothing to do with performance.”
Overall, Dakin said he hoped a massive rejection of this contract offer by the membership would spur negotiations with the province and prevent any strike action.
“We’re not hoping for a strike,” he remarked. “This is not the final offer, this is only the first offer they’ve given us.”