Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday June 14, 2017
Ontario offers public servants ‘unprecedented’ contract extensions, 7.5-per-cent raises over 4 years
Ontario is offering public servants a four-year contract extension with 7.5-per-cent raises, which, if ratified, would avoid possibly contentious bargaining before the next provincial election.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union workers would get 1.5 per cent on July 1, then one per cent on Jan. 1, 2019 and another one per cent every six months for the life of the deal. The approximately 35,500 workers and correctional staff represented by OPSEU are employed across the public sector, from administration and enforcement to social work, IT and laboratory staff.
The possible deal follows the Liberal government’s successful offering to teachers and education workers of two-year extensions that came with four-per-cent raises and more than $275 million in additional funding.
OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas called the scope of the latest contract extension offer “unprecedented” and said he suspects it is related to the June 2018 election.
“I’m kind of shocked the government actually made us any kind of an offer,” Thomas said. “It’s no secret that my union and myself, my executive board, we’re always in a battle with the government…We’re at odds with them on a lot of fronts.”
But, Thomas said, the offer contains a number of positive changes with no demands of concessions for members, and no matter the motivation he’s looking for the best deal for the workers.
Premier Kathleen Wynne disputed that the offer was about the upcoming election.
“My position has always been, since I’ve been in elected politics, has been that good working relationships with our labour partners is good for the people of the province,” she said.
For many years now, the government has only been able to offer public-sector workers small increases, as it worked to eliminate a multi-billion-dollar deficit, but the budget is now balanced.
“One of the reasons that we have been able to come to this position now where we are able to balance the budget, where we are able to make investments, is that we’ve worked very well with our labour partners,” Wynne said. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)