Ontario union heads were so opposed to the Tim Hudak Conservatives that they were willing to “sell their souls” and back the Liberals, OPSEU president Warren “Smokey” Thomas says.
The union president blasted Ontario Federation of Labour president Sid Ryan for calling the Kathleen Wynne budget “progressive” when it offers no wage hikes for four years, something Thomas said is not evidence of fair collective bargaining.
“The labour movement was so afraid of Tim Hudak being elected that they sold their souls to the Liberals. And we didn’t do that. That’s not how our organization functions,” Thomas said Thursday. “I know Sid Ryan is very furious at me for taking a contrary position ... but that’s okay. I got elected to represent my members, not the Liberals.”
Wynne told Sun Media in an interview Wednesday that unions who backed her party in the recent election should know, or must learn, that there is no new money for salary increases although she continues to support the negotiation process.
Thomas said Wynne’s message to voters was one of support for collective bargaining and public services.
“It’s a blood sport,” he said of the campaign. “She plays it well, she’s very convincing, but I don’t think she’s being honest with the people of Ontario when it comes to public services.”
Ryan said in an interview that OFL convention delegates gave him a mandate to make sure that Hudak did not become the premier of Ontario as did most of the unions in the province.
“And I have to say mission accomplished,” he said.
OPSEU didn’t tell their members how to vote, although Thomas was essentially calling for strategic voting too and “he just didn’t have the guts to come out and say it,” Ryan said.
Ryan said that he was delighted with the outcome of the election, that it would have been a far different situation for the labour movement if Hudak had won government.
“It’s easy now for Smokey to come out and be critical of everybody else and that he’s the only true trade unionist in the province and the rest of us are all sellouts,” Ryan said. “But it’s easy for him to say that because the rest of the labour movement saved his ass, and saved him from having to deal with Hudak who would have laid off his members wholesale.”
Hudak had pledged to cut the public sector payroll by 100,000 positions although he said a significant chunk would have been dealt with through attrition.
Thomas said Wynne also have budget cuts in her plan which will cost public-sector jobs.
OPSEU is launching an aggressive campaign against the privatization agenda of the budget, demanding that the government bring in new transparency measures such as putting the salary of private individuals and contractors on the Sunshine List if they are funded publicly.
Thomas did support NDP Leader Andrea Horwath openly during the campaign, and continued to defend her from attacks Thursday that she’d gone too far to the populist right.