OPSEU/SEFPO Board to add seven Equity seats!

In an historic moment for OPSEU/SEFPO and the broader labour movement, a constitutional amendment was passed on Saturday, April 22 at the OPSEU/SEFPO Convention resulting in the addition of seven Equity seats on the union’s Executive Board.

This constitutional amendment came out of years of hard work and the understanding that equity needs to be at the centre of OPSEU/SEFPO. It is a significant step forward toward representing members’ voices in a meaningful way, and the path toward building a powerful labour movement that wins for working people.

Approval by 2/3 of the voting delegates was required for this constitutional change to be passed at Convention – the union’s highest governing body. After being defeated on a first vote, OPSEU/SEFPO Convention attendees continued a heated, heartfelt discussion on the Convention floor.

OPSEU/SEFPO members – many who came to the microphone for the first time – bravely shared their personal experiences as members of minority, marginalized groups. The debate was a difficult, necessary process, which ultimately highlighted the transformative impact that Equity seats at OPSEU/SEFPO’s Board would have for full representation of the union’s members.

Shortly before the Convention concluded, the motion on Equity seats was then called for reconsideration, and passed.

The next steps for the Constitutional change will see a Board Equity Committee being formed, out of which seven Equity representatives will be elected and join OPSEU/SEFPO’s Executive Board.

“The Equity seats expand our Board in a positive way because it allows us to bring more voices in. It makes sure the Equity Committees are reflected on the Board itself. It means we’re getting lived experiences and perspective. And I understand that it is challenging for folks to think through changes in governance, but there is no perfect governance system. What we can do now is build up.”

JP Hornick, OPSEU/SEFPO President

“So many times, we are allies to other groups, but it’s a huge difference to actually put yourself out there and have some kind of action take place. We look at things and say well ‘that’s not how we’ve ever done it’ or ‘I don’t fully understand or know how this is going to work’… This was one of those times that we had to get out of our comfort zone and think differently to do the right thing. And I think the Convention floor did that.”

Laurie Nancekivell, OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer

The time is now:
I support equity!

Why OPSEU/SEFPO members support equity:

"To live a life feeling less than or unheard is exhausting when you see others doing less but thriving more. It’s time things change."
Ashley Merritt, Local 330
"It’s really important to me"
Laura Danaj, Local 2100
"Equity needs to be part of the decision making in OPSEU/SEFPO. It is past time for this to happen."
Christine Kelsey, Local 416
"So I can see young people in positions of power to effect change and decision making"
Taylor McIntosh, Local 116
"Very important that everyone has a voice and a vote"
Tammy Carson, Local 369
"We do the same if not more than other emergency services and get paid less."
Deanna Marucio, Local 368
"It will remove a significant barrier to greater member participation. It's time."
Joel Usher, Local 381
"Equity matters."
Marcia Steeves, Local 351
"Because without it, nothing changes!"
Shelley Rose, Local 330
"The voices of equity consistently are an after thought and not in conversations where decisions are being made. The time is now to truly be Inclusive."
Bonnie Eddy, Local 330

Making it easier for you to vote:

By entering your postal code, this OPSEU/SEFPO map will show you:

  • Your riding
  • Your candidates, with links to their websites and social media
  • Your OPSEU/SEFPO region

Check your electoral district with Elections Ontario

En saisissant votre code postal, vous trouverez sur cette carte de l’OPSEU/SEFPO :

  • Votre circonscription
  • Vos candidat(e)s avec les liens vers leurs sites Web et médias sociaux
  • Votre région de l’OPSEU/SEFPO

Trouvez votre circonscription auprès d’Élections Ontario

More diverse voices,
more power for all!

During OPSEU/SEFPO’s 2023 Convention, delegates will be voting on an exciting plan to increase the power, authenticity and authority of all the union’s demands.

How? By actively confronting and dismantling a significant source of systemic racism and discrimination — not enough seats at the table.

The plan — which has the full support and endorsement of OPSEU/SEFPO’s elected leaders — is to restore the governing Executive Board from 21 seats to its full strength of 28.

To seven restored seats — the “Equity Seats” — will draw intentionally on the depth and diversity of OPSEU/SEFPO’s rapidly growing membership, electing representatives through Equity Committees and Caucuses and guaranteeing that the union’s leadership accurately reflects its membership.

Outlined in Constitutional Amendment H12, the plan has been forged by the Social Mapping Project Ad Hoc Committee, and the 21 current Executive Board Members (EBMs) voted unanimously in February 2023 to endorse it.

The plan now requires the support of two-thirds of Convention delegates. Every vote matters. Every member stands to win.

Everybody stands to win

The problem is clear: while 20 per cent of the OPSEU/SEFPO members identify as Equity Deserving persons, just 5 per cent of EBMs identify as Equity Deserving persons.

To address this glaring inequity, Constitutional Amendment H12 will return the Executive Board to 28 seats, the size it was until being cut to 21 seats as a cost-saving measure following the successful — but long — OPS strike of 1996.

Considering that Executive Board costs make up just 1 per cent of the union’s annual budget, it’s a small investment that will yield benefits immediately, and even more benefits in the long term. 

You can help ... here's how

  1. Sign the equity pledge, even if you’re not attending Convention as a voting delegate. The more members who voice their support, the more likely the plan is to succeed.
  2. Share information and material with your coworkers and on social media.

Equity Seats shareables and materials

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why are Board Equity Seats needed?

  • To stop under-representation. Approximately 14 per cent of OPSEU/SEFPO members identify as equity-deserving persons from Black, racialized and Indigenous communities. Their voices currently represent less than 5 per cent on the OPSEU/SEFPO Executive Board.
  • As shown clearly throughout the Living Wall project and Social Mapping, Racialized, Black, Brown, and Indigenous members are significantly underrepresented as voters during election-year conventions.
  • To remain relevant, strong and united, OPSEU/SEFPO must harness the energy of an increasingly diverse membership:
    • Young Workers – 26% (from 22% in 2010)
    • Racialized members – 14% (from 10%)
    • People with disabilities – 14% (from 9%)
    • People with a sexual orientation other than heterosexual – 10% (from 5%)
    • Women – 72%
    • Indigenous members – 6.5%
    • Francophones – 9%

What recommendations from the Social Mapping Executive Summary support the creation of the Constitutional Amendment?

The Social Mapping Executive Summary contains the following recommendations which directly support this amendment:

4. Establish metrics and transparent reporting on diversity in leadership. Regularly assess the diversity and representativeness of the OPSEU/SEFPO leadership population at the local, regional and provincial levels, comparing the counts to the membership data available from the OPSEU/SEFPO census.

5. Establish numerical goals for representation of the groups of focus in leadership positions.

20. Introduce impact measurement tied to specific initiatives.

31. Solidify and extend the equity-related links between campaign topics and the diverse lived experiences and concerns of members, stakeholders and communities.

35. Address any unwelcoming aspects of the environment and culture at Convention and other events. Re-commit to creating a ‘safe space’ for OPSEU/SEFPO members.

36. OPSEU/SEFPO should commit to taking the next step in its pre-eminent position in diversity, equity and inclusion among Canadian labour organizations. It should build on its effective policies and practices to foster a first- in-class leadership population that consistently reflects diverse approaches, acts as role models and influencers, and delivers a fully inclusive experience for members.

38. Improve communications and outreach to encourage members from the groups of focus to take on responsibilities that they might otherwise consider to be a ‘stretch’.

44. Implement a formalized process for strategic succession management to ensure that the union’s “talent pipeline” is diverse and sufficient to meet its upcoming needs. Provide education, encouragement and support for activists in the groups of focus who have leadership aspirations.

45. Consider the equity-related implications (risks and opportunities) of a shift to three-year elected terms, including an increased number of Alternates at Regional and Provincial levels.

48. Introduce policies to provide for equitable opportunities for election success.

How do the Equity Seats help all members?

  • To make strong impactful changes in the Trade Union movement, we need to address our own delegation within the structures of OPSEU/SEFPO.
  • The desired outcome is a welcoming and respectful climate fostered by an inclusive leadership approach.
  • OPSEU/SEFPO is already recognized as a leader on equity in the labour movement. Our reputation and authority will only grow once one of its highest governing body more accurately reflects its membership.
  • Having more diverse representatives at the local level – local executive, bargaining committees, pay equity teams — will create even more equity and more power at a grassroots level

How will having 7 equity seats strengthen the fight against employers?

  • The union’s membership has grown by nearly 100,000 members since the Executive Board was reduced to 21 seats in the 1990s. As the union has grown, so have the demands on and responsibilities of the volunteer Executive Board Members (EBMs). Restoring the board to 28 seats  will allow for the work to be delegated and more members will have greater access to their board members
  • By strengthening the union, we strengthen members’ ability to advocate for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in all of our workplaces and communities. We must first address internal inequity in order to empower members to challenge employers externally

Where will the funds come from to pay for restoring the board to 28 seats?

  • The financial costs of restoring the Executive Board to 28 seats are relatively small. Remember that board members are not paid and are only booked off from work for board business roughly a dozen times a year.
  • Even at 28 members, the costs of the Executive Board will remain a very small percentage of OPSEU/SEFPO’s annual budget.

How does the Not for Profit Act play a role in this Constitutional Amendment?

  • In October 2021, the Not-for-Profit Corporations Act came into force as the legislation that governs OPSEU/SEFPO as a corporation.  Among other requirements, the Act requires OPSEU/SEFPO to specify the classes of members with a right to elect the Executive Board Members, President, and First Vice-President/Treasurer.  The delegates to seven Regional Meetings and to Convention currently comprise eight classes of members, each with distinct voting rights.
  • The Act authorizes the Executive Board, as the Board of Directors of the corporation, to appoint up to one-third of its Members.  This provision allows corporations to add Directors, such as to support principles of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, but without interfering with the established voting rights of any class of members.
  • The Constitutional Amendment relies on this statutory authority to appoint Directors, and also allows members to vote provincially for seven Board Members from equity-deserving groups.  The Executive Board is required by policy to follow the democratic choice of the membership to appoint the seven Equity Board Members.
  • This Constitutional Amendment will allow OPSEU/SEFPO to maintain its current regional delegate structure based on locals and Convention, and also to create Province-wide, online voting by individual members of seven equity-deserving groups.  The Executive Board that results will have 28 members instead of 21, and will have greater diversity and representation of equity-deserving voices. 

When does the learning about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) end?

It doesn’t – we all have a responsibility to continuously expand DEI it is not a passing movement or one-and-done action. It must permeate every level of the organization.

Board Equity Committee - Terms of Reference

Article 1            Scope and Application

1.1        These terms of reference provide the policy and procedure for the selection, recommendation, and appointment of members to the positions of Equity Board Member and Equity Vice-President on the OPSEU/SEFPO Executive Board, and alternates.

1.2        These terms will have no application until such time as the OPSEU/SEFPO Constitution is amended by Convention to establish these Equity positions on the Executive Board. 

Article 2            Appointment of the Board Equity Committee

2.1        No later than November 30 of the year preceding an election year, each of the seven Article 19 Provincial Committees will select a representative to the Board Equity Committee, or “BEC”.  Selections may be done by vote of each Provincial Committee, or by other process as permitted under the Provincial Committee’s terms of reference.

2.2        In December of the year preceding an election year, the Executive Committee will appoint the seven members selected by the Provincial Committees to the BEC.  The Executive Board will appoint one member of the Executive Board to the BEC, who shall have voice but no vote.

2.3        The President of OPSEU/SEFPO will be an ex-officio member of the BEC with voice but no vote.

2.4        The President of OPSEU/SEFPO will assign staff as necessary to support the BEC. 

2.5        The BEC will exercise its functions from the time it is formed until the close of the Convention that immediately follows. 

Article 3            Responsibilities of the Board Equity Committee

3.1        In accordance with the OPSEU/SEFPO Constitution, the BEC is responsible for coordinating the selection and recommendation of members for the following Equity positions on the Executive Board: seven Equity Board Members; seven Alternate Equity Board Members; one Equity Vice-President; and one Alternate Equity Vice-President.   

3.2        The BEC will also be responsible for developing any amendments to these terms of reference, subject to approval by the Executive Board. 

3.3        In fulfilling its role, the BEC will oversee the steps of the selection process, such as:

  1. Developing the call-out to OPSEU/SEFPO members;
  2. Setting the deadlines and requirements for submission of Participation Forms and Nomination Forms;
  3. Developing and recommending procedures for the exchange of information between Candidates and Participants;
  4. Confirming an external provider to conduct a secure and confidential online polling process, and providing oversight and support to that process;
  5. Receiving and reviewing the results;
  6. Providing recommendations to the President of OPSEU/SEFPO for appointments for Equity positions on the Executive Board.

Article 4            Call-out

4.1        In January of an election year, OPSEU/SEFPO will send and post online a call-out to invite members to participate in the process to select members for the following Equity positions on the Executive Board:

  1. Seven Equity Board Members who are members of the equity-deserving groups represented by each of the following Provincial Committees and caucus:
    • The Provincial Women’s Committee;
    • The Provincial Young Worker’s Committee;
    • The Provincial Francophone Committee;
    • The Indigenous Circle;
    • The Rainbow Alliance arc-en-ciel Committee
    • The Coalition of Racialized Workers Committee
    • The Disability Rights Caucus
  2. Seven Alternate Equity Board Members, one for each of the seven Equity Board Member positions above.
  3. One Equity Vice-President, selected from among the seven Equity Board Members;
  4. One Alternate Equity Vice-President, selected from among the seven Equity Board Members;

Article 5            Member Participation

5.1        Any OPSEU/SEFPO member in good standing who self-identifies as a member of one or more of the seven equity-deserving groups is eligible to participate in the process to select members for Equity positions on the Executive Board.  Any member who has not signed an OPSEU/SEFPO membership card, or is otherwise not a member in good standing, is not eligible to participate.    

5.2        In order to be eligible to participate in the selection process, a member must submit a completed Participation Form to self-identify with the equity-deserving group(s) with which they will participate, and to provide contact and other information.    Neither the BEC nor OPSEU/SEFPO will verify or question a member’s self-identification.

5.3        The BEC will verify that members are eligible and will confirm those who will act as “Participants” in the selection process.  The number of eligible members who are confirmed as Participants will be limited to 150 for each equity-deserving group according to the order in which Participation Forms are received. Priority will be given to members who self-identify as racialized or indigenous.  Notwithstanding this limit, members who are confirmed as Participants for one equity-deserving group will participate with any other groups with which they self-identify.   

5.4        Any OPSEU/SEFPO member in good standing who self-identifies as a member of one or more of the seven equity deserving groups may apply to be considered for an Equity position on the Executive Board, regardless of whether they are a Participant in the selection process or a member of the BEC.  Neither the BEC nor OPSEU/SEFPO will verify or question a member’s self-identification.

5.5        In order to be considered for an Equity position on the Executive Board, a member must submit a completed Nomination Form to self-identify with the equity deserving group for which they will be considered, and to provide contact and other information.  Completed nomination forms must be signed by at least one OPSEU/SEFPO member in good standing who self-identifies as a member of the same equity deserving group as the member who wishes to be considered.  

5.6        The BEC will review Nomination Forms that are submitted and will confirm the members who will be “Candidates” for Equity positions on the Executive Board  

5.7        Members may participate in the selection processes with any equity-deserving group with which they self-identify.  However, members may apply as candidates with only one equity-deserving group at a time, even if they self-identify, and are Participants in the selection process, with more than one group. 

6            Campaign

6.1        OPSEU/SEFPO will provide the members who are Participants in the selection process with information provided by the Candidates.  The BEC will have a consulting role in this process, which will encourage a full and informed exchange of information and ideas.  The process may include, for example: online posting of campaign materials, an online or mediated Q and A process for member questions; and an online webinar or forum for discussion or presentation of speeches.    

7            Selection and Polling

7.1        The BEC will review available options and then coordinate services with an external provider to schedule a secure, confidential voting process.  The intent of this process will be to poll Participants of each equity-deserving group to determine the preferred Candidate for the position of Equity Board Member and Alternate Equity Board Member for that group. 

7.2        Voting of participating members will be conducted by plurality within each equity-deserving group.  Aggregate results will be reported by the external provider to the BEC.  Individual votes will not be disclosed to the BEC or to OPSEU/SEFPO.

7.3        The preferred Candidate for the positions of Equity Vice-President and Alternate Equity Vice-President will be selected from among the seven Equity Board Members, as determined by a poll of all Participants from all equity-deserving groups.

7.4        At the discretion of the BEC, polling for the positions of Alternate Equity Board member, Equity Vice-President, and Alternate Equity Vice-President may be conducted concurrently or following the polling for the positions of Equity Board Member. 

8            Recommendations

8.1        In accordance with the OPSEU/SEFPO Constitution, the BEC will recommend seven members for the position of Equity Board Member, one for each of the seven equity-deserving groups.  The BEC will recommend one member for the position of Alternate Equity Board member for each of the seven Equity Board Members.  The recommendations will follow the preferences expressed by Participants through the online polling process. 

8.2        The BEC will recommend one member for the position of Equity Vice-President, and one member for the position of Alternate Equity Vice-President, from among the seven members recommended for the position of Equity Board Member.  The recommendations will follow the preferences expressed by Participants through the online polling process. 

8.3        All recommendations will be provided by the BEC to the President of OPSEU/SEFPO, the Executive Board, and the Participants in the selection process no later than 45 days prior to the opening of Convention. 

9            Appointment

9.1        Prior to the opening of Convention, the Executive Board will appoint the members recommended by the BEC to the positions for which they are recommended.  Executive Board Members so appointed will be members-elect in the same manner as those elected at Regional Meetings, in accordance with the OPSEU Constitution.  

10          Removal

10.1      The Executive Board may remove an Equity Board Member or Equity Vice-President from the Executive Board only after polling the Participants that participated in the selection of the Equity Board Member or Equity Vice-President.   If the majority of members vote to remove, the Executive Board may remove the Equity Board Member or Equity Vice-President by majority vote.    

11          Vacancies

11.1      In the event that a member of the BEC steps down or is unable to continue, the BEC will continue its function with the remaining members.  There will be no alternates appointed and no right to remove or replace members. 

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