Fair deal sought

Dear editor:
There was a time when I was quite proud to work for the Ministry of Natural Resources. Now I am not so sure. It has been a long and rocky road of downsizing, privatization, and starving budgets since 1992.
The Harris regime has added yet another round of events resulting in staff demoralization and bad public services.
We started the second strike in the Ontario government’s history last Wednesday. The government has not returned to the bargaining table since last Tuesday. So we walk up and down the sidewalk with signs lamenting our lot and telling our story to anyone who will listen.
Strike pay is $125 per week.
Bargaining in the public sector is unlike any other bargaining. While we have the right to strike, our behaviour is governed by legislation that applies only to the public sector. No other employer in Ontario is subject to the same rules.
The Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act has been enacted to tell us just what we can or cannot do. Part of that outlines an agreement called emergency and essential services. That agreement decides who and what services will be performed in event of a strike.
The government has argued a full 30 percent of the 45,000 employees fall into this category. While this includes only the essential parts of certain jobs, it does somewhat limit the effectiveness of a strike action because not all of our membership can strike.
Since the Harris reign of government, our wages have fallen behind the average rate of inflation. In order to catch up, we would need an immediate increase of 16 percent. But we only have asked for a modest increase of six percent for each of a two-year term. It is not a wage increase, it is wage recovery.
The government has offered an increase of 1.95 percent for each year over a three-year term.
The average wage in Canada in all sectors is $45,000. The average wage in the Ontario public service is $43,000. The average one-year negotiated wage increase this year in Canada was three-six percent.
Harris, himself, was quoted as saying a 36.6 percent increase for himself and his fellow MPPs was “fair.” He does not agree six percent is fair for the people that really do the work.
We do not want the moon. We want to return to work. We just want a fair deal.
Tony Elders
Local 711
Chief Steward