OPSEU opens strike headquarters in Cornwall

OPSEU opens strike headquarters in Cornwall

Union members lined up at a new "strike headquarters" at the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) local 453 membership office in Cornwall

By Adam Brazeau 
CORNWALL, Ontario – Public service workers fed up with the Liberal government’s push towards privatization opened a strike headquarters in Cornwall.

Inside the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) local 453 membership office on Cornwall Centre Road, a small but dedicated group of over 30 union members rallied in solidarity on Friday (Feb. 6).

Newly minted picket signs emblazoned with boldface letters read, ‘Public service, not private profits,” “I’m worth more than zero,” and “Privatization always costs taxpayers more.”

The current collective agreement expired Dec. 31, 2014. And with negotiations at a standstill, OPSEU says its being forced into a strike situation.

“A few weeks ago, the Wynne government came to the table and said we’re not going to bargain a contract anymore, we want to bargain a strike,” said David Lundy, OPSEU regional vice president for Region 4.

In addition to creating dozens of picket signs, union members, on their lunch hours, also readied the new headquarters, designated picket captains, and registered for strike pay.

“We’re doing everything that’s necessary to be prepared should we be forced out,” said Lundy. “But of course our goal is to get a fair contract, not to end up on the sidewalk.”

The issue boiled over in Cornwall on Jan. 30, as OPSEU held an information picket line at the Service Ontario office at the intersection of Second and Pitt streets.

Lisa Chalmers, with the local 453 communications team, said the union represents 650 public service workers in Cornwall and SDG.

Lundy said a strike could happen after an essential services agreement between the government and OPSEU is signed.

Chalmers said local jobs potentially impacted range from maintenance workers at the St. Lawrence Parks Commission, artisans at Upper Canada Village, parole officers, “inspectors that are monitoring environmental issues,” amongst others.

Lundy added: “OPSEU believes that when you work for a living, you should earn a living wage, and it should come with the benefits to support a family, and the ability to retire with dignity. The direction of the provincial government now is a real attack not just on public services, but on the family unit itself.”

As an example, he recalled a recent Auditor General report that stated the government had squandered $8 billion in public-private partnerships.

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