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The Canadian Business Journal
thing we fight is the contracting out of public
services – these public-private partnerships.”
Privatization of public services has become a
global phenomenon and it’s something Thomas
and OPSEU are vehemently against. The OPSEU
team proposed a five-point plan to the provin-
cial government that would determine whether
a public-private partnership scenario was war-
ranted, but the dialogue from the government’s
side has been next to non-existent.
“(Deputy Ontario Premier) Deb Matthews
and (Ontario Premier) Kathleen Wynne told me
about two and a half years ago that within two
weeks they were going to show me the proof
and the evidence that privatization saves the
taxpayers money and provides better services.
Well, I’ve never gotten the evidence, because
it doesn’t generally save the taxpayers money,”
replies Thomas.
In mid-November OPSEU released polling
data that shows the vast majority of Ontarians
are opposed to the privatization of public ser-
vices. The Ipsos Reid survey found just 25% of
respondents now support public-private partner-
ships when pursuing infrastructure development
in Canada. It’s likely no coincidence that the
drastic 45% drop in support came soon after the
auditor general’s report revealed that in the past
decade such deals have resulted in $8 billion in
extra costs for the province of Ontario.
Thomas says he is nonpartisan when it
comes to politics and is not a member of any
party, noting that there are people in all three
of the mainstream parties whose opinion he
respects and corresponds with on a regular basis.
In fact, he believes one of the fundamental prob-
lems with Ontario’s labour movement is that
there is far too much partisan politics. “I think if
we could get behind issues rather than partisan
politics we’d make a lot more progress.”
Protecting Workers’ and
Citizens’ Rights
Representing 7,500 LCBO workers, OPSEU
recently signed a breakthrough deal with
the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and the
province to make “equal pay for equal work” a
reality for thousands of LCBO Customer Service
Representatives (CSRs). The agreement arose
from the union’s complaint to the Human Rights
Tribunal of Ontario. OPSEU quite rightly asserted
that the LCBO’s pay structure for CSRs in its
stores and depots discriminated against workers
in the female-dominated “casual” classification.
“This agreement shows that working peo-
ple, working together, can challenge the trend
towards precarious work and win. I am intensely
“I’m not opposed to the
private sector making money,
but I am opposed to public
services being cannibalized so
the private sector can make
– Smokey Thomas
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