Ontario Public Service Employees Union
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|Key people||Warren "Smokey" Thomas, president|
|Office location||100 Lesmill Rd.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU; French: Syndicat des employés de la fonction publique de l'Ontario) is a trade union representing public sector employees in the province of Ontario, Canada. OPSEU was established in 1975 as the successor union to the former Civil Service Association of Ontario, which was founded in 1911. In 1979, OPSEU affiliated with the Canadian Labour Congress, the National Union of Public and General Employees, and the Ontario Federation of Labour. OPSEU is affiliated to several labour councils across Ontario.
The current president is Warren "Smokey" Thomas, who was first elected to the position in 2007. Eduardo "Eddy" Almeida is the union’s First Vice-President/Treasurer.
Most members of OPSEU work for the Ontario Public Service, municipal governments and services, and the public college system. Additionally, some members work for private companies or organizations that are contracted to provide a public service such as hospitals and medical laboratories.
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 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.