In the wake of Wynne’s throne speech, Unifor vows to keep a close eye on Ontario Liberals

Union lauds provincial pension plan, job creation strategy

In her throne speech last week, Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne re-introduced a budget that appeals to most labour groups — but the country’s biggest union warns it will keep a watchful eye glued to the Liberal party over the next four years.

According to Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor, Wynne delivered many welcome promises for change in her throne speech on July 3, something the union will push through to fruition.

“During the election campaign, Kathleen Wynne repeatedly expressed her belief that government can be a force of good — and Unifor will continue to push the Liberals hard to ensure they lead Ontario towards prosperity,” Dias said.

The Liberal budget — the very same plan that triggered the June election after being shot down by the Progressive Conservatives and NDP — aims to eliminate the $12.5 billion deficit by 2018.

Of note for labour groups is the Liberal’s plan to protect and strengthen workers’ rights, create good jobs and rejuvenate a much-beleaguered manufacturing sector.

One of the budget’s major components is the hotly-contested Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP), which will be available to people who do not already have a retirement program at their workplace. Prompted after the federal government balked on Canada Pension Plan reforms, the ORPP will see employers matching up to 1.9 per cent of contributions to their employee’s nest eggs.

“No one should be left guessing whether or not they’ll be able to afford groceries in retirement,” Dias said.

Many union leaders backed the Liberal agenda or condemned the alternatives during the June election.

That included the unprecedented and hotly-contested move by Unifor 87-M, the union that represents media staff and journalists, to endorse anybody but then-leader of the Progressive Conservatives, Tim Hudak. The matter was further muddled this week when 500 NDP unionized federal staffers left Unifor after it refused to unequivocally endorse the New Democrats in the June election. In their departure, employees cited a betrayal of the provincial NDP as well as fear for their jobs, should Unifor not back the NDP in the forthcoming federal election, slated for 2015.

Whereas key players like Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, dubbed Wynne’s budget as “progressive,” others, including Warren (Smokey) Thomas, who helms the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, accused union leaders of selling their souls to the Liberal party.

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