OPSEU, province back at table

Talks between the Ontario Public Service Employees Union and the province resumed Monday but there’s been no word yet about a new contract.
“They went back to the table yesterday and so far they’ve said nothing publicly,” Bob Dakin, president of OPSEU Local #711, said Tuesday.
“The negotiations are now at that point where they keep everything close to their chest until the details become concrete,” he added.
More than 45,000 members of OPSEU, including 4,000 from Northwestern Ontario, began contract talks Dec. 18. Their current three-year deal expired Dec. 31.
Dakin said the province and OPSEU suspended negotiations over the Christmas holidays, allowing each side to examine the other’s proposal before returning to the table Monday.
Although he said negotiations are still in the early stages, Dakin noted the union is preparing for a possible strike just in case.
“We’re having an educational weekend [Jan. 19-20] in Thunder Bay,” he said. “It’s for essential services, or what we call ‘inside strikers,’ strikers who are required to work under current legislation.”
The weekend will focus on teaching those union members deemed essential what their rights are and what aspects of their job they would be responsible for during a possible strike.
“Watering your boss’s plants is not an essential duty, it’s not essential to getting the job done,” Dakin remarked.
He said that if there was a strike, only minimum staff would continue to cover essential services. “It will be service at a minimum, not business as usual,” he stressed.
Since a strike vote has not been called, and negotiations seem to be progressing, Dakin said a walkout isn’t likely anytime soon.
“We [just] don’t want to wait for the last minute to start making plans,” he explained. “If a strike is called, we would be in place and able to put up picket lines in a couple of days.”
In the meantime, he hopes strike action can be averted.
“I’m still optimistic,” he said. “Even though they don’t negotiate in the media, you do hear rumours. [But] for the most part, we haven’t heard any comments that we have a hard row to hoe.”