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OPSEU will take contract protest to Pan Am events

OPSEU members are protesting Pan Am Games sites
July 10, 2015
By Richard J. Brennan

Disgruntled provincial government workers are set to protest against the Liberal government at Pan Am Games events.

Angry over austerity measured imposed in the union and the privatization of their jobs, members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, will be at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton on Saturday when Mexico takes on Columbia in women’s soccer, and at the Milton velodrome later in the week.

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the 35,000-member union, said Friday the members will be there to hand out information and ask why Premier Kathleen Wynne has money for games but not front-line workers.

“Kathleen Wynne seems to have money for all the things she wants but is punishing every public sector worker,” Thomas said Friday.

The price tag for the Pan Am Games is $2.5 billion, which is funded by all three levels of government.

Thomas said OPSEU members will be protesting at all the sites sooner or later but will not be disrupting the events.

“We just want to hand out our information. We are not setting out to disrupt the Games. We support the athletes ... and we wish all the athletes the best. We just want to get our message across that there is a lot of money going into these games and what about the rest of society,” the OPSEU head said.

“The Ontario government has spent more than $500 million on the Games, but when it comes to public services and their own employees, they say there’s no money,” Thomas said a separate statement. “Sport is about fairness, but there’s nothing fair about privatizing the public services we all rely on.”

Thomas said he doesn’t want make the public angry.

“We want to get them on our side. We’re not teachers.”

OPSEU represents all front line employees who work directly for the Ontario government. Their current collective agreement expired Dec. 31, 2014.

A spokeswoman for Treasury Board President Deb Matthews said the government’s “goal is to negotiate a fair agreement that balances the interests of employees with the need to provide sustainable and affordable public services. We remain at the table, willing and able to bargain.

“The government must negotiate an agreement that reflects the current economic reality,”