President Warren (Smokey) Thomas highlighted the heroic efforts of OPSEU/SEFPO members during the pandemic as he gave the union’s take on Bill 269 to a legislative committee.
Thomas told the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs committee on Friday that OPSEU/SEFPO members have put their lives on the line every day during the COVID-19 threat.
Thomas said he was pleased to see a flat-out rejection of austerity in this year’s budget, which marks a sea change in attitude at Queen’s Park.
“It’s not everything we’d hoped for,” said Thomas. “But it shows this government understands we have a capacity crisis in Ontario. Budget Bill 269 is a step forward in building our public sector, instead of breaking it down.”
Thomas urged the Ford government to stay the course, and never return to the deficit obsession that got us into this mess. “You don’t get prosperity from austerity,” Thomas quipped.
Thomas also spoke of his deep concern about the capacity crisis that has plagued Ontario’s health care and long-term care sectors as he raised the need to build capacity and invest in made-in-Ontario solutions, like manufacturing PPE, to keep Ontario’s population healthy and protected.
While the union supports new funding earmarked for a broad range of public services – like funding for Ontario’s correctional system, hiring new workplaces inspectors, building new child treatment centres and supporting Ontario’s public postsecondary education system – Thomas says there’s still room for improvement.
“No doubt, there’s plenty more work to be done,” said Thomas. “But as long as our hearts and minds are open, we can accomplish great things in Ontario. We look forward to the opportunity to participate on the Task Force on Women in the Workforce and to continue keeping the lines of communication open with this government.”
Bill 124 remains a top concern for the union and Thomas once again pushed for the repeal of the legislation and its unconstitutional wage cap, urging the government to respect workers’ right to free and fair collective bargaining. Thomas reiterated that public sector workers are keeping this province safe and healthy and that they deserve respect, dignity, and paid sick days too.
President Thomas also offered the union’s help in getting to the other side of this pandemic.
“It’s time for collaboration and consultation,” said Thomas. “The Premier must bring together Ontario’s best – from business and labour – so we can address our most pressing concerns and find long-term economic solutions by working together.
“Budget Bill 269 marks an important step in the right direction,” Thomas told the committee, which is reviewing the budget bill. “But Ontario is going to need more than a short-term injection of cash to achieve prosperity. We need a bold vision and a big investment, so that our public sector – and our province – is strong for the long-haul.”