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Date: Sat, 25 Jan 97 09:24:37 CST
From: rich@pencil (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Canadian Privatization Battle Lifts Off

/** 455.0 **/
** Topic: Canadian Privatization Battle Lifts Off **
** Written 7:28 AM Jan 24, 1997 by labornews in **
From: Institute for Global Communications <>
Subject: Canadian Privatization Battle Lifts Off

* Original: FROM.....Ken Patience (2424/610)
* Original: TO.......All (2424/610)
* Forwarded by.......OPUS 2424/610

From: (sdaynes)
Subject: Another piece

Canadian Privatization Battle Lifts Off

From Ontario Public Service Employees Union, 24 January 1997

OPSEU President Leah Casselman is calling on union members to join in a "campaign of resistance" against government plans to privatize, deregulate, and demolish public services and jobs in Ontario.

"None of us will forget 1996," Casselman said in a Dec. 23 letter to local presidents. "It began with a solid hit against the government when 67,000 OPSEU members went on strike, followed by a vicious attack against us.

"We hit them, they hit us," she said. "Now it's time for the counterpunch.

The December meeting of the OPSEU executive board passed a new policy designed to launch the fight against what Casselman called "the central policy of the Mike Harris government -- privatization.

"When we talk about 'privatization,' we're really talking about the whole agenda of this government, whether it means the sale of public services, deregulation, increased user fees, the income tax cut, or just plain layoffs of public workers," she said. "All of these policies have one thing in common: they reduce the role of the public sector in our society while boosting the role of the private sector.

"Are the decisions that affect us all going to be made democratically, by all of us, or are they going to be made by unaccountable, unelected elites in corporate boardrooms?

"When governments act like corporations, corporations will be our governments," Casselman said. "It's time to take this government on."

"Fighting back works"

"Most OPSEU members don't realize their own strength when it comes to pushing back against this government," she said. "But who would have thought a handful of laundry workers would be the ones to force [Alberta Premier] Ralph Klein to back away from cuts and privatization in health care? Who would have thought that Manitoba's home care workers could stop a 50 per cent pay cut by refusing to let their jobs be privatized?

"Ontario is no different than any other province with a right-wing government. What they propose, we can resist. What we can resist, we can delay. What we can delay, we can stop.

"Fighting back works," she said. "We won our health system by fighting, we won workers' compensation by fighting, and we're going to win a lot more battles -- by fighting."

Democracy the key

Standing up for democracy is key to the privatization fightback, Casselman said. She pointed to the proposed creation of a Toronto "megacity" as an example of a government that can't tell the difference between democracy and dictatorship.

"The president of Serbia is in trouble because he's refusing to recognize the results of local elections," she said. "Mike Harris goes one step further -- he's eliminating local government altogether.

"People have the right to decide on the issues that affect them. That's democracy."

Tour planned

Area councils and Executive Board Members will take OPSEU's campaign into workplaces and communities across Ontario. Casselman will swing by a number of them as part of a provincial tour aimed at sparking public debate and building workplace resistance to privatization.

"The Tories have had an easy ride so far on the privatization issue," Casselman said. "That's all over now.

"Privatization costs much more than it saves. It's time everybody knew."

The tour starts in Windsor Jan. 17.

Step by step fightback

When you hear rumours or announcements that your work may be privatized, deregulated, or just plain cut, don't just wait and see what happens. Take action -- action that makes brings your members on board right from the very start.

Get informed. Track down the rumours. Grill your managers -- find out what they know. Find out what's true and what's not true. If and when you find out the privatization is going ahead, get the details -- who, what, when, where, why, and how the privatization will take place.

Communicate. Make sure all the OPSEU members who could be affected know as much as you know. Write it down and move it out. Talk to people. Call meetings. Keep people informed.

Build a team. You need to set up a campaign fightback team to organize your response. Bring people together. Talk strategy. Find out what you need from your union to get things off the ground.

Make it public. When the members know, the public should know. Because OPSEU members aren't the only ones who pay the price for privatization. There are big impacts on your community and on the people who use the services you provide. Make use of local news media. Work with community groups. Build the pressure that will make management negotiate.

Negotiate. The goal of the fightback is simple: to get something better than you would if you simply rolled over and played dead. The key to a successful negotiation is to be able to apply continuous pressure.

Members buy their work

Two members of Local 114 have become the first in the province to successfully bid on the work they and about 10 other members have done, after it was contracted out.

The adolescent and children's services unit at St. Thomas Psychiatric Hospital, a program funded by the Ministry of Community and Social Services, was up for grabs, and the two have won a $680,000 bid to keep performing their work.

Local 114 president Dave Erskine said ComSoc decided to divest the program under the guise of "better delivery of services" and the local was included in a task force set up to develop the terms of reference for the divestment. He and steward Joy Colman joined ComSoc, health ministry, consumer and community representatives on the body.

Meeting the challenge

The first fight was to have union members allowed to bid at all, as the employer called the move an "invitation to submit proposals" and it wasn't inviting them. A challenge produced a ruling from Management Board that this was equivalent to a bid or tender and they should be allowed to take part.

Another OPSEU local in the Broader Public Service was also interested in bidding, so the two members on the task force declared a conflict of interest and refrained from voting "in the interest of fair play," Erskine said.

In mid-December the two group learned they were getting the nod, and on Jan. 8, they got the formal agreement to provide counselling services to children, teenagers and their families around troubles with school and the law. The existing staff will continue in their jobs under the human resource plan submitted with the proposal.

"It's a terrific shot in the arm for the union. The staff were elated, ecstatic," Erskine said. The service will continue unchanged, operating initially out of the same premises. The staff will move from the Ministry of Health to the Broader Public Service. The final structure is not clear as yet, but it appears staff will have to re-sign union cards in their new situation.

Erskine said Colman was "a real asset" throughout the process, and appreciated the work of job security officer Jill Morgan who assisted throughout.

Pay hikes for bureaucrats "a kick in the teeth"

Pay hikes of up to 27 per cent for senior Ontario bureaucrats are "a kick in the teeth" for OPSEU members worried about losing their jobs, OPSEU President Leah Casselman says.

Ontario Finance Minister Ernie Eves approved the pay hikes after a consultant hired by the government said top officials were underpaid. Some Deputy Ministers could now be paid over $192,000 a year.

"It looks like Mike Harris wants to model Ontario after the big banks, where the presidents get paid in the millions and the tellers barely scrape by," said Casselman.

She said this kind of policy means senior decision-makers lose touch with the people who pay the price for their decisions. "How is a deputy minister making more than $190,000 going to understand what it's like for a working mother to have to use the food bank? How does someone who just got a 27 per cent raise on a six-figure salary relate to the impact of a 20 per cent cut for families on welfare?

"These top honchos don't need the public services the rest of us depend on. They can afford to send their kids to private schools, take cruises in the Caribbean, pay the tolls on private highways, and buy private medical care.

"If you don't understand how important a good public education system is, what a godsend it is to be able to take an inexpensive holiday in a provincial park, the importance of being able to get around the province, or the essential nature of Medicare, then I guess it's easy to privatize and to lay off the people providing the services."

Medical divison negotiates central deal

OPSEU has negotiated a tentative settlement for members in central hospital bargaining. The new deal improves displacement rights when bargaining units are combined and strengthens health and safety language.

The three-year contract, reached Dec. 12, runs until March 31, 1999. It covers 5,300 members working at 58 hospitals.

Other union gains in the tentative settlement are bereavement leave for same sex partners, a definition of seniority as time worked in the bargaining unit, the option to take call-back in cash or lieu time, and a model agreement for job sharing.

Health plan changes will cover dental check-ups every nine months, an increase from six, and limit claimable drugs. Members will also get less sick leave coverage for third and subsequent illnesses in a year.

The employer had come to the table demanding an 18 per cent decrease in compensation items, as well as significant benefit reductions. They also wanted to eliminated language on contracting out and definitions of bargaining unit work.

Bargaining team chair Mary Sue Smith praised the changes in layoff and recall language that allow bumping between full- and part-time workers.

"After virtually 24 hours of back-and-forth talks, the parties were agreed to language that would allow cross-status bumping after all options in your own status are exhausted. This is a major gain for combined units."

In a bulletin to hospital locals, Smith said the team resisted concessions but considered arbitration a serious gamble. "Bill 26 directs arbitrators for the first time to consider the employers' 'ability to pay,'" she wrote. "The team felt that in these times, with restructuring and closures dogging our heels, we would be better off getting the best possible deal at the table."

Federation fights bad WCB bill

"It's your life... don't leave work without it."

That's the theme of the Ontario Federation of Labour's fightback campaign against a new government bill that threatens to tear apart the province's workers' compensation system.

The campaign began after Labour Minister Elizabeth Witmer introduced a bill Nov. 26 to repeal the current Workers' Compensation Act and replace it with a Workplace Safety and Insurance Act.

"This bill is a major attack on the living standards and rights of injured workers," said OPSEU health and safety officer Bob DeMatteo. "It would strip injured workers of more than $15 billion in benefits and give employers more than $6 million in reduced premiums."

Highlights of the proposed bill:

Local labour councils have information to help OPSEU members get active in the campaign. Workplace health committees have been set up in Brampton, Barrie, St. Catharines, Hamilton, Brantford, Sault Ste. Marie, Timmins, Sudbury, North Bay, Woodstock, Kitchener, Kingston, Thunder Bay, Dryden, Cornwall, Ottawa, London, Windsor, Oshawa, and Peterborough. Members should participate in public hearings expected to begin in late January. For more information, call DeMatteo or Janet Kerr in the Health and Safety Section at OPSEU head office.

Prince Edward Heights gears up for a fight

Local 448 is gearing up for a town hall meeting in its continuing battle to delay closure of Prince Edward Heights in Picton beyond its scheduled March, 1999, date.

Local president Carl Yates said there is massive support from parents, concerned about the future of their offspring in the facility, whose average age is about 45.

A booth at the community fair last September produced 1,000 letters and 6,000 names on a petition to keep the centre open. These have already been presented to the area's MPP.

Parents and members of the business community have met with Community and Social Services Minister Janet Ecker, who has so far refused to delay the closure, Yates said.

Prince Edward Heights has a "village setting, with a church, school and bank," he said. "The clients there have more flexibility and freedom than they would in a group home in the community. In addition Prince Edward runs a number of group homes itself, a fact that many people don't seem to realize."

Yates said with the client age and staff age being about the same, the most humane aproach would be to let the ageing process itself just phase the programs down. By the time existing staff reached retirement, probably most of the clients would be gone.

Ontario Public Service Employees Union