Historic OPS meeting prepares activists for
the fight ahead
175 OPS leaders came out of their fightback
meeting June 17-18 with a plan to protect good jobs and
defend quality public services.
The government has disclosed to the
bargaining agents that 1,900 positions in the OPS will be
eliminated by March 31 of next year. Members whose positions
will be cut will receive what are called ‘pre-surplus
notices’ on July 14.
At least 1,100 jobs will be eliminated from
the OPSEU bargaining unit – or 53 per cent of the total
cuts. This number could rise to 1,400 – or 60 per cent of
the total cuts – because the government plans to cut a
further 250 jobs but has not identified the positions as of
This round of layoffs does not include the
1,500 jobs that the McGuinty government has announced it
will cut next year.
OPSEU’s fightback campaign has two fronts:
the first one is the protection of members who are
job-threatened. The second is a community campaign to
publicize the consequences of the cuts in the upcoming
Activists were told that their first
priority is to identify and track any bargaining unit
vacancies within the OPS so that members will have options
if facing layoff or downsizing. Once identified, vacancies
should be reported to the Ministry Enforcement and Renewal
Committees (MERCs) so that a co-ordinated strategy can be
put in place to deal with the impact of layoffs.
Activists were also reminded to ensure that
they are available for their members on July 14 when surplus
notices are issued.
Activists were given an overview of the
surplussing procedure along with what rights and
entitlements members will have during this process. Staff
representatives will be the locals’ first resource if any
questions or concerns arise.
Activists received a CD with tools and
resources to help them enforce the contract and mobilize in
On July 14, which has been dubbed “Pink Slip
Day”, members in the OPS will be asked to wear a pink
band-aid with the message “Cuts Hurts Us All”. This will
demonstrate our strength and support for one another which
will help those directly affected by the cuts. As we get
closer to this date, more information will be available on
how you can join in
The second front of the campaign will be
aimed at the Oct. 6 provincial election.
In order to track the impact of the cuts in
the coming months, members were asked to e-mail
firstname.lastname@example.org with answers to the following
What is the impact of the job cut(s) on
the public and/or client group that uses the service?
Where is the work going? (E.g.
redistributed among colleagues, transferred to another level
of government or to a BPS agency, privatized, or no plan.)
Activists were reminded that to be effective
we must always remember to talk about the work we do on
behalf of the people of Ontario. The term “public services”
can be vague to many people. By talking specifically about
the work we do, (I protect water, I keep dangerous trucks
off the road, I protect your health card from fraud), it
brings home to people how cuts will negatively affect them.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas urged
members to get involved in all election-related events in
their ridings during the summer and fall.
“It’s up to us to tell our friends, families
and neighbours how valuable our work is to the people of
Ontario,” said Thomas.
To guide the strategic direction of the
fightback campaign, President Thomas, in consultation with
the Central Enforcement and Renewal Committee (CERC), will
appoint a Provincial Co-ordinating Group (PCG). OPSEU Staff
represesentatives will be calling on local presidents to
form Area Co-ordinating Groups (ACGs). The ACGs will receive
direction from the PCG and help co-ordinate activities and
bolster support in the locals.
Activists were also reminded that the OPS
contract expires at the end of 2012. This fightback campaign
will be our first opportunity as a group to set the tone for
those upcoming negotiations, which will likely take place in
an extremely hostile political environment.
Over the course of the day and a half
meeting, activists heard from a number of speakers including
President Thomas, First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo
(Eddy) Almeida, CERC Chair Roxanne Barnes, and Corrections
MERC Chair Dan Sidsworth. Executive Board Members attended
the meeting and participated in the brainstorming sessions.
Staff from Job Security, Local Services and Communications
were facilitators and resources.
Activists were given an overview of the
McGuinty government’s plans for the OPS from the provincial
Budget, as well as the Progressive Conservatives’ election
platform. Activists learned that the Liberals and Tories
share the same agenda: cuts to jobs and services, reduced
wages, benefits and pensions and the privatization of
At lunch time on the Friday, members
participated in political activities. They handed out
flyers, “Why should you care about cuts to public
services?”at major intersections in downtown Toronto and
showed their support for locked-out members of the Canadian
Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) by joining a nearby picket
Members were given a global perspective on
challenging the so-called “austerity” agenda from York
University professor of political economy David McNally. He
told activists that 90 per cent of the world is being asked
to pay for the excesses of less than 10 per cent. He said
Canada today is more unequal than at any point since the
1920s. McNally pointed out governments around the world
spent $21 trillion dollars of public money bailing out the
banks to prevent a financial meltdown in 2008. This is the
equivalent to all the goods and services produced by the
U.S. economy in the span of 18 months.
McNally defined ‘austerity’ as meaning
citizens pay for the financial crisis by losing the public
services we depend on. He said building coalitions of
unions, social justice groups, and youth is critical to
fighting drastic spending cuts. He said he was humbled to
hear about the specific work OPSEU members do for the people
of Ontario and he wished us well in our fight.
The fightback meeting was opened with a
moment of silence for OPSEU member Amber Lynn Booth, a
student worker in the OPS, who died June 6 in a head-on
collision while travelling to her job at a provincial park.
This was Amber Lynn’s third summer working in the OPS. She
had aspirations to be a Conservation Officer.