Ontario Public Service Employees Union
|Full name||Ontario Public Service Employees Union|
|Head union||Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president|
|Office location||Toronto, Ontario|
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) is a trade union that is suppposed to represent about 120,000 employees in the broader public service of the Province of Ontario, Canada. The current president of OPSEU is Warren "Smokey" Thomas. Prior to Thomas OPSEU was headed by Leah Casselman. Casselman was the President of OPSEU for 11 years and was re-elected five times. She saw the union through the most eventful time in its history. She resigned December 19, 2006.
OPSEU is descended from its predecessor, the Civil Service Association of Ontario and is affiliated with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).
OPSEU represents workers in more than 500 bargaining units in the following areas:
- Employees of the provincial government
- Academic and support staff working for Ontario's Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology
- Simcoe County District School Board
- Moosonee District Area School Board
- Moosonee Roman Catholic Separate School Board
- Peel District School Board
- Rainbow District School Board
- Trent University, Nipissing University, Ryerson University
- Ambulance services, community health care, hospital professionals, health care/support and long term care facilities, mental health workers
- Canadian Blood Services staff
- Developmental services, Children's Aid Societies, child and family services, childcare, community agencies, and child treatment centres workers
- Correctional services (provincially operated jails and prisons)
- Legal aid clinics
- 21 different municipality groups across the province
- Casinos and racetracks
- Art Gallery of Ontario
- Royal Ontario Museum
- Toronto Community Housing Corporation
- Ontario Dairy Herd Improvement Corporation
- Niagara Parks Commission
- Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario
- Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal
- Liquor Control Board of Ontario
- Ontario College of Art and Design non-faculty staff.
OPSEU has 20 offices in cities across Ontario. Its head office is located in Toronto.
In October 2008, OPSEU Pension Trust was named one of "Canada's Top 100 Employers" by Mediacorp Canada Inc., and was featured in Maclean's newsmagazine. Later that month, OPSEU was also named one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers, which was announced by the Toronto Star newspaper.
Unlike most unions, OPSEU members have personal carriage rights over their grievance(s). In most unions, once a grievance is filed the union takes carriage of the grievance at the corporate level. For OPSEU members, this means that the individual member, or group of members, who filed the grievance(s) have the right to make all decisions with regard to settlement, withdrawal and the decision whether or not to proceed with litigation. This can potentially be costly to the union as the grievor may refuse to settle or withdraw a frivolous or groundless grievance. However, mediated arbitration is often used as a cost-effective method for determining a grievance's potential before a settlement board if the grievor chooses not to settle at that stage. The grievor's union representative will then counsel the grievor on the best course of action. Often if it appears that a grievance could be lost with prejudice (i.e., the settlement could negatively impact future, similar grievances by setting precedent) then the representative may recommend that the grievor tactically withdraw it at that stage.
The First Strike: 1996
In 1993, Ontario's first NDP government altered the legislation governing Ontario Public Service employees to allow them to strike. In 1996, Ontario Public Service employees struck legally (Correctional Officers struck illegally in 1979) for the first time in their history. The strike was deeply political; OPSEU rallied against the Mike Harris government's proposed job cuts. The tension between the Government and OPSEU culminated on March 18, 1996 in a confrontation between the OPP and OPSEU strikers at Queen's Park in Toronto. Ontario Provincial Police riot control officers were called in to escort members of parliament who were being prevented from entering the legislature. MPPs were pelted with rocks and paper cups when they tried to cross the line. The confrontation escalated when police began to push through the line of protesters and violence erupted. At least half a dozen protesters were injured. 
The Harris government faced strong criticism for calling in the OPP to control the protesters, and although the Harris government initially resisted, an inquiry was launched into the actions of the OPP officers. The strike lasted five weeks.
Tensions between the union and management remained strong after the strike.
The Second Strike: 2002
The second strike between OPSEU and the provincial government lasted 54 days (March 13 to May 5) in 2002. Again, tensions between managers and the union were strong. Although there was no bloody confrontation between the union and the government during this strike, there was a strong division between union members and management.
Talking from a Corrections Stand Point, Correctional Officers picketed at all Ontario Jails and Correctional Institutions, preventing inmates from being released from their cells, given medication and sometimes even disrupting meal service. Correctional Managers soon ended up operating all Correctional Institutions in the province.
- OPSEU website
- Carriage Rights and other Questions about OPSEU
- OPSEU's GreenUnion blog
- No Justice, No Peace by David Rapaport at Google Books
- Ontario Public Service Strike Violence, McLeans Magazine April 1, 1996