OPSEU back to work today

Drivers licences will be issued, fire crews will be protecting local forests, and all corrections officers will be back to their regular shifts starting today as public service workers voted to end their eight-week strike.
Striking Ontario Public Service Employees Union members voted this weekend to ratify a tentative deal struck Thursday. Only half of the 45,000 members turned out for the vote, but 78 percent of those accepted the agreement.
“We’re happy to go back to work,” Bob Dakin, president of Local #711 here, said this morning. “We wish it could have been better, but it’s a compromise and you can’t get everything you want.”
The contract included an 8.45 percent wage increase over three years for all employees, plus an additional one percent for those at the top of their pay grid.
Corrections employees will get an additional five percent increase over the 8.45 percent, while medical and chemical laboratory technologists, classroom assistants, and school aides in provincial schools also receive immediate wage hikes.
The union also retained control over half of its $2-billion pension surplus, which can be used for early retirement plans.
While they voted to accept the offer, Dakin said many people weren’t happy about it.
“It was enough acceptance that people have resigned themselves to the fact that it wasn’t going to get any better,” he remarked.
The strike, which began March 13, had sparked violence in some jails, concern over fire crews in the spring fire season, and a backlog of paperwork for those wishing to purchase licences, birth, marriage, or death certificates.
“The government looks forward to restoring full services as soon as possible,” Management Board spokeswoman Julie Rosenberg said Sunday.
Rosenberg urged people looking to use provincial services to check schedules on the Internet and call ahead.
“Many public offices will be on a reduced schedule this week in order to allow staff to deal with the backlog,” she continued.
While the union didn’t get the six percent wage increase over two years it had sought, members still are viewing the contract as a victory.
“This fight is going to pay off, not only over the next three years, but also in our next round of bargaining—whomever the employer happens to be,” OPSEU president Leah Casselman said in a press release.