Unions unite to fight Ford

Uni­for, OPSEU pool­ing re­sources against gov­ern­ment’s ‘de­struc­tive agenda’

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - ONTARIO NEWS - MICHELLE McQUIGGE

TORONTO — Two of the coun­try’s largest unions say they will be work­ing to­gether in an ef­fort to stop what they de­scribe as On­tario Premier Doug Ford’s “de­struc­tive agenda.”

The heads of Uni­for and the On­tario Pub­lic Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees Union an­nounced their al­liance in the wake of Ford’s re­ac­tion to Gen­eral Mo­tors’ planned plant clo­sure in Oshawa, Ont., say­ing the premier’s com­ments last week in­di­cate his pri­or­i­ties do not lie with ev­ery­day work­ers.

Ford has said there’s noth­ing his gov­ern­ment can do to con­vince the au­tomaker to change course, adding the com­pany’s pres­i­dent had told him “the ship has al­ready left the dock.”

The union lead­ers con­tend that Ford and his Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment are more fo­cused on cor­po­rate in­ter­ests than the con­cerns of front­line work­ers and vow the two unions, with a com­bined mem­ber­ship of about 470,000 peo­ple, will be fight­ing back.

“On­tario’s most prom­i­nent pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor unions are team­ing up to block Premier Doug Ford’s de­struc­tive agenda,” OPSEU said in a state­ment on the col­lab­o­ra­tion Sun­day night. “The sol­i­dar­ity of their mem­bers is a pow­er­ful force against Ford’s anti-peo­ple, pro-cor­po­rate and pro-pri­va­ti­za­tion agenda.”

OPSEU pres­i­dent War­ren “Smokey” Thomas said a weak­ened pri­vate sec­tor will limit any gov­ern­ment’s abil­ity to col­lect taxes and fund pub­lic ser­vices, adding push­ing back against Ford would ben­e­fit all On­tario res­i­dents.

“We un­der­stand that pub­lic ser­vices are the great equal­izer in so­ci­ety,” Thomas said in a tele­phone in­ter­view. “It’s in both our best in­ter­ests, for our mem­bers and for so­ci­ety, to work to­gether and co­or­di­nate our ef­forts and see if we can’t back Mr. Ford up in some of his poli­cies and en­cour­age him to rein­vest in pub­lic ser­vices.”

The al­liance, an­nounced at Uni­for’s On­tario Re­gional Coun­cil meet­ing held over the week­end, was prompted largely by Ford’s re­ac­tion to news that GM planned to shut­ter its Oshawa plant next year, tak­ing at least 2,500 jobs with it, Thomas said.

Ford has said union lead­ers and politi­cians who talk about sav­ing the Oshawa plant are selling “false hope” and said his gov­ern­ment would help the af­fected work­ers find new jobs.

Both Thomas and Uni­for na­tional pres­i­dent Jerry Dias said Ford’s re­ac­tion wasn’t good enough. Thomas also crit­i­cized the premier for giv­ing $34.5 mil­lion to Maple Leaf Foods for the con­struc­tion of a con­sol­i­dated plant in Lon­don, Ont., de­spite the fact the com­pany will be shed­ding 300 net jobs by clos­ing three other fa­cil­i­ties in the prov­ince.

Dias said Ford has given the two unions even more rea­sons to push back against his plans.

“Doug Ford has clearly shown his play­book,” Dias said in a state­ment. “It’s one at­tack af­ter an­other against work­ing peo­ple and our fam­i­lies.”

Ford spokesman Si­mon Jef­feries said the gov­ern­ment has been fo­cused on help­ing work­ers, em­pha­siz­ing tax cuts for low-in­come res­i­dents and en act­ing mea­sures meant to at­tract busi­ness to On­tario.

“While life was good for Jerry Dias, Smokey Thomas, and their in­sider friends un­der (former premier) Kathleen Wynne and the Lib­er­als, the gov­ern­ment for the peo­ple’s pri­or­ity will be fight­ing for the lit­tle guy not the union bosses,” Jef­feries said in a state­ment on Mon­day.

Thomas said the two unions would be co-or­di­nat­ing in ef­forts to lobby leg­is­la­tors and speak up against gov­ern­ment moves that the unions feel could jeop­ar­dize work­ers.

He said the unions will also push to re­in­state some labour-re­lated mea­sures in­tro­duced by the former Lib­eral regime that have been re­versed by the Ford gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing a $15 min­i­mum wage that was planned for next year and more le­nient sick day poli­cies. — with files from Adam Burns

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

Two of Canada’s big­gest unions plan to join forces against what they call On­tario Premier Doug Ford’s “de­struc­tive agenda.” Pres­i­dent of Uni­for Canada Jerry Dias, left, and On­tario Pub­lic Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees Union (OPSEU) pres­i­dent War­ren “Smokey” Thomas wait out­side Ford’s of­fice on July 16.

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