Dakin ‘optimistic’ of settlement

The president of Local 771 of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union president is “optimistic” contract talks with the province will reach an agreement, but he’s scouting out a strike headquarters just in case.
“We’re optimistic that we’ll have a good negotiation and, hopefully, end up signing a contract rather than going on strike,” Bob Dakin said as talks between OPSEU and the province enter their second week.
Formal negotiations between the province and its 45,000 public service employees, including 4,000 in Northwestern Ontario, began in Toronto on Dec. 18.
Their current three-year contract expires Dec. 31.
Job security, wages, benefits, and pension plans are among the main issues being discussed.
While Dakin couldn’t offer any details about the talks, he said they’re progressing well so far. But he admitted OPSEU, which represents everyone from jail guards to social workers, is making plans just in case things turn sour.
“We are making arrangement and are in the process of locating strike headquarters for the three locals represented here,” he said.
Locals also are acquiring barrels, fuel, and other strike supplies. Dakin said they also have created a phone tree, where he calls three people and they each call half-a-dozen others if any news breaks.
“A strike is not our first option, it’s our final option. A strike is not something we’ll rush into,” he stressed.
In case of a strike, Dakin said plans already are in place to cover essential services such as at the jail or with the Ministry of Transportation.
“We negotiated that first,” he noted. “That’s why we started negotiating for the collective agreement [last] Tuesday. We’ve actually spent three months negotiating for essential services.”
The last time OPSEU went on strike was for five weeks in 1996, and Dakin said he doesn’t want a repeat of that.
“As long as we’re negotiating, there’s no timeline placed on the talks,” he said. “If we reach an impasse or the government provides us with an ultimatum, then we’ll have to vote on that.”