Toronto – During the second of Doug Ford’s “sham consultation sessions” with OPSEU on public sector wages, OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas opened with a simple question: how much are the high-priced Bay Street lawyers running the sessions costing citizens?
“How much are you being paid?” Thomas asked the two lawyers hired by Ford to run the session. Both lawyers are with the firm McCarthy Tétrault, which is well known for representing employers during bargaining and for its role in privatization, stretching all the way back to the Conservatives’ failed attempt to privatize Hydro One in the early 2000s.
“What’s truly offensive about these sham consultations is that Doug Ford and Vic Fedeli say everybody will have to feel some pain, but there’s no pain for the rich or for corporations,” said Thomas, garnering applause from the OPSEU Executive Board members and sectoral and divisional chairs who were in attendance. “It’s just pain for working people.”
There were no MPPs nor senior-level government managers at the session, just the lawyers and a couple of government middle managers. The lawyers asked Thomas a series of questions, all premised on the widely debunked notion – even by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce — that the province is facing “financial disaster” because of public sector spending. The questions all hint at Ford’s desire to limit or even legislatively cap public sector wages.
“Let me make one vital point clear from the start: we fundamentally disagree with any plan – or any discussion on a plan – to cap public sector wages,” Thomas said. “The Charter of Rights and Freedoms confirms the right to free collective bargaining. And our existing contracts are not, and I repeat absolutely not, open for renegotiation. Period.”
Thomas said that bargaining and arbitration already work: over the past decade, bargained and arbitrated wage increases have all been very close to the inflation rate. He added that if the government were truly interested in limiting costs, it would replace managers with frontline workers, stop wasting billions on privatizations and reorganizations, and put an end to the practice of hiring expensive outside lawyers to bargain contracts and run “sham consultations.”
“These sessions are designed for one thing only: so the government can check off the box that said it did consultations when we launch a Charter challenge against any attempt to impose wage caps on bargaining or arbitration,” said Thomas.
He then addressed the mid-level government managers in the room: “I feel badly for you because you’re just getting thrown under the bus by this government,” he said. “If you need a union, come talk to us.”
For more information:
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931