The Ford government reconvenes the legislature to prevent a strike by Ontario Power workers

The Ontario Legislature has reconvened for an emergency session to prevent job action at the province’s major power utilities.

Last week the legislature rose for the holidays but the Premier called everyone back to table legislation to stop any potential strike of 6 000 workers at the Ontario Power Generation.

The power workers’ union has the ability to shut down 50% of the electricity in this province.

Premier Ford, who was visibly absent from the sitting today, tweeted this:
“A work stoppage would impact electricity supply and would risk having seniors, hospitals, and nursing homes without power during the holidays and winter months.”

The energy minister says time is of the essence, with possible power outages happening as early as Christmas eve .

“We are literally on the clock. In 7 days OPG will be required to take steps to wind down the nuclear reactors and some dam operations.” Greg Rickford, minister on energy.

The move to introduce back to work legislation has been criticized by the official opposition.

“They are going to get the legislation passed by Thursday, there will be no rolling blackouts through Christmas, people will have lights on their trees, but what they will still have is a Premier that make things up on the fly and tries to scare monger folks just as they’re wrapping their presents to put under the tree.” Andrea Horwath, Ontario NDP leader.

Minister Rickford called Horwath irresponsible for those comments, but Horwath says the province didn’t even wait for the strike to begin before threatening to force workers back on the job.

“We need to respect the rights of these workers to bargain collectively. It’s part of their charter rights and to have a government legislate them back to work before they even call a strike is ridiculous.” Horwath.

“We understand constitutional rights, but we we’re here to talk about lights primarily to keep them on.” Rickford.

But without unanimous consent on the bill the house was adjured until Tuesday at 9 am. If passed, the bill would send the dispute between the Power Workers’ union and Ontario Power Generation to arbitration.

The main sticking point in talks is OPG’s refusal to grant over 300 so-called term workers the same rights as full-time employees. A spokesperson for OPG says the vast majority of bargaining unit employees are on the Sunshine List earning more than $100 000 a year.