How many “Ps” are there in McGuinty?
October 23, 2012
To honour Sesame Street, the following words are brought to you by the
letter “P”. That is “P” for pensions, prorogation and most of all
politics. And have we ever seen a lot of these in past weeks, sisters
The first “P” was for pensions. Public sector pensions
are a front for bitter right-wing attacks. We’ve heard the battle cry:
“Regular families don’t have a pension so why should our lazy
bureaucrats have a gold-plated one?”
The answer is simple. Public workers pay for their pensions from their
earnings. Instead of getting their compensation paid out as wages
they’ve bargained a pension plan. This is why public sector pay is not
as high as many think. The average OPSEU member earns about $45,000 per
year. Decent, yes – gold-plated, hardly!
After 35 years of service the average public service pension is about
$30,000 a year. Pensions aren’t a gift from the employer or the
taxpayer. They aren’t a drag on the economy. They are not gold-plated.
Public sector workers have families. They pay taxes. They purchase goods
and services in the community. They also perform some of the most
difficult jobs around.
It is important to note that thousands of OPSEU members remain without a
pension. When pensions are proposed at bargaining, the employer says no.
This employer response denies access to a dignified retirement. Many
employers see a worker as a liability, not an asset. Workers are just
another commodity required for production. To increase profits it is
best to drain the last bit of energy from them at work and then dispatch
them to a retirement of poverty. Profits and executive salaries trump
the interests of working people every time.
To illustrate the current attacks, I’ll point to the federal
Conservative’s new omnibus budget implementation bill. Concealed in a
provision that requires MPs to pay a larger share for their truly
gold-plated pensions is a clause that forces newly-hired federal
employees to work until 65 while raising their share of pension
contributions. This amounts to a two-tiered pension plan.
This shameful attack on pensions comes through the blunt force of
legislation. While corporate profits hit peaks and companies retain
their wealth in bank accounts, government mounts attacks on those who
work to build safe communities and civil society. Past generations and
many current Canadians recognized that pensions are a national program
that keeps millions out of poverty at retirement. Yet now, with the
stroke of the Governor General’s pen on this omnibus budget
implementation bill, the opposite will begin to happen.
The next “P” is for prorogation.
This shut down of parliament “locks out the opposition.” In unions we
know who is attacking during a lockout. In a 21st century
Ontario we see actions best suited to the distant past, when the local
baron pulled up his castle drawbridge when the peasants got restless.
Now we have a Premier who has retained his powers and is collecting his
salary while refusing to do his job.
He is not totally asleep though. His government keeps issuing pink slips
to hard-working front-line public sector workers as he promises to
“protect the public service.”
He even has the audacity to claim that unions are the cause of the
prorogation. Huh? Premier, OPSEU members go to work every day. They
protect communities and provide needed public services. They just hope
to exercise their right to bargain fair terms and conditions of
employment, one contract at a time. I suggest you do the same.
This strategy of blaming unions for the prorogation of the Legislature
plays into the hands of the Hudak Tories. With little substance in their
political policy papers, Hudak will proclaim that unions are so powerful
they caused the shut-down of Queen’s Park. Nothing is farther from the
Finally, we have the last “P” for politics.
The Liberals are in big trouble. They are the poster kids for
mismanagement. They smell of corruption. They have failed to maintain
the trust they were given by voters. By resigning, the Premier ran back
into his castle and pulled up the drawbridge. With a non-confidence
motion coming, he thought he had nowhere else to go.
Unions didn’t prorogue parliament any more than they caused the 2008
financial meltdown. Unions will continue to fight for pensions and a
dignified retirement for Ontario’s workers. Unions will also continue to
fight for democratic rights including the right to free collective
bargaining; the right to have a government that can be held accountable
in the legislature; the right for people to be part of an economy that
does not rob one group to enrich another; and the right to a prosperous,
fair and equitable Ontario.
Even against the political efforts of our government to blame unions for
every ill, we will soldier on. As for McGuinty and his Liberal
government, I have one last “P”. That “P” is for pitiful.
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
First Vice-President/Treasurer, OPSEU