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DURHAM — Workers at Durham Region’s courthouse are among thousands of Ontario Public Service members anxiously watching contract negotiations between their union and the provincial government.
The 35,000 members of the OPS have been without a contract since their last deal with the government expired Dec. 31, 2014. What effect a strike might have on the public remains difficult to predict, with the two sides poised to begin the process of determining what constitutes essential services, said Don Ford, a communications officer with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.
And that process, which would precede any strike action, promises to be time consuming, Mr. Ford said.
“Every agreement has to be individual to the work site, and there are over 1,400 work sites,” he said. “Even for our own members, we cannot give a definitive timeline as to how long it may take. It has never gone smoothly in the past, so we have no reason to think it will go smoothly this time.”
OPSEU accuses the government of taking a tough stance in its approach to the negotiations, calling for wage freezes and showing little sign of making concessions on issues like benefits. Mr. Ford said that in the event of a strike by courthouse workers — there are about 200 OPS members at the Durham courthouse on Bond Street in Oshawa — services to the public will be curtailed.
A spokesman with the Attorney General’s ministry wouldn’t comment on the potential for court cases to be derailed — or charges dismissed — in the event of a strike by courthouse staff.
“While I can’t comment on ongoing labour negotiations I can tell you that the Ministry of the Attorney General has contingency plans to address scenarios that could impact court operations,” Brendan Crawley said in an e-mailed response.