Convention Update 3 – April 21, 2012
Public Services: Something to Value
Judy Wasylycia-Leis, Chair of the Commission on Quality Public Services and Tax Fairness, presented Convention’s attendees with the Commission’s report Something to Value. The Commission is a partnership created between the Public Services Foundation of Canada and OPSEU to respond to the Drummond Commission.
Unlike the Drummond Commission, the Commission on Quality Public Services and Tax Fairness gathered real public opinion about the future of public services in Ontario. The assumptions going into the fact-finding process were Ontarians would show up to be heard. And they did.
Public hearings were conducted in 12 communities. Over 1,000 Ontarians and 100 experts voiced their concerns. They also shared their ideas for a stronger future for Ontario that didn’t involve austerity measures like the Drummond Commission report recommended.
“This produced a ground-breaking report with grassroots participation and honest conversations,” Wasylycia-Leis said. “People came forward with courage and conviction to paint an accurate picture of this province.”
The Commission believed that participatory democracy ought to mean something. Any reform is meaningless if it doesn’t involve consultation with those who provide and receive the services. Financial reform cannot focus only on expenditures.
The Commission was moved by the “depths of despair” in the testimonies they heard: the most vulnerable said the services they rely on have been drastically slashed or cut altogether; people suffering loss of freedom and dignity; and families who have been driven to the point of bankruptcy and/or poverty from the loss of good-paying jobs.
“This province has lost billions as a result of the recession, income inequality, and corporate tax cuts,” Wasylycia-Leis said. “Seventy-eight per cent of Ontarians support the idea of a surtax on the most wealthy in our midst.”
She summarized the recommendations in the report that constitutes a road map to the future of the province:
- There can be no recovery without addressing income equality.
- The measure of a society is in how it treats its most vulnerable members.
- Public services are the most powerful instrument we have to affect the impact of growing inequality.
- Public sector reform cannot be done in isolation from those who work on the front lines.
- Ontario has a revenue problem not a spending problem.
“This report is a validation of what Ontarians have been saying for years,” said Wasylycia-Leis. “If we do not do it now, if we do not go on the offensive now, it will be harder and harder to reverse course. The longer we wait, the further we fall into the inequality trap.”
The report has been circulated to all MPPs and media with astounding interest.
“With more partnerships like this one with OPSEU, we are one step closer to stopping the austerity folks in their tracks,” Wasylycia-Leis said. “We have to take on the assault on public services. The assault on public services is bigger than all of us.
“And let us never underestimate the power and influence of the Occupy Movement. We can rise up and fight for a society based on the values of caring and sharing.”
Wasylycia-Leis is a former Member of Parliament and one-time Manitoba cabinet member. Wasylycia-Leis, a former resident of Ontario, has spent the past 30 years of her life in politics and public service.
Horwath accepts award on behalf of Broadbent
Smokey Thomas presented this year’s Stanley Knowles Award to former federal NDP leader Ed Broadbent. Broadbent, who couldn’t be at the Convention this year, thanked OPSEU for his award via video message.
In his message, Broadbent said there is much more to be done, “The conservative agenda is threatening fairness. Inequality and job loss are growing. More and more people are being left behind.”
“OPSEU has proven it can take on a tough and intelligent leadership role and working together we can mobilize members with new ideas and strong resources,” Broadbent said. He looks forward to working with OPSEU for many years to come.
On Broadbent’s behalf, Ontario NDP Leader, Andrea Horwath, accepted the award. “Ed has been a force in politics,” Horwath said. “The work he is doing now shows us that he is needed now more than ever. These are interesting times, and challenging ones.”
“The mandate and message is clear. It’s time for something new,” said Horwath. “Voters want to see a different kind of politics taking place in this province. They want us to roll up our sleeves and work together to address the challenges.
“Ontario will be financially secure when Ontarian families are financially secure; when the people who make this province work, are working.”
More budget, still no closure
After yesterday’s defeat of the Board’s proposed dues levy, 1st Vice-President/Treasurer Eddy Almeida presented a revised budget to delegates. Without the proposed dues levy, the 2012 budget was changed from a $2.16 million surplus to a $2.8 million deficit.
Debate ensued regarding ways to reduce spending in order for the budget to come closer to being balanced.
Almeida reported that membership growth was strong in the past, but the economic crisis of 2008 has slowed the trend. Plus, employers’ increased reliance on part-time workers has decreased dues revenue. However, member services remain essential. This year alone, Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology—Academic and the Ontario Public Service face contract negotiations, and 18 new contracts are being negotiated.
The Board has been busy in their attempt to shave surplus from the proposed budget: negotiating budgets, staff development funds, Executive Board Member and committee budget costs, campaigns and local full-time book off have been reduced by a total of $3.5 million. In addition, two projects have been cancelled saving an additional $260,000.
The Board continues to be committed to find savings through initiatives such as bulk pricing, centralized purchasing, video conferencing, and reducing travel costs.
Members voted for a reduction in local dues rebates by 15 per cent for the next four rebate periods. They passed an additional motion which reduced Executive Board Members’ time off to a maximum of 50 per cent of their regularly scheduled work hours.
Convention was temporarily interrupted when most members from Regions 4 and 7 walked off the Convention floor during the budget debate. However, quorum was maintained, and debate continued until the orders of the day. Budget debate continues Saturday morning.
Debbie Tungatt, Executive Board liaison to OPSEU’s Social Mapping Project, presented attendees with an update on the initiative. Mandated at the 2008 Annual Convention, the purpose of the project is to ensure that OPSEU is a diverse, inclusive and barrier-free organization.
Phase I began in 2010, with members completing a survey. Phase II took place over 2011. A membership system review was completed, focusing on education and electoral systems, resulting in 47 recommendations. A task force was approved by the Board. The mandate of the task force was to research, prioritize, cost and develop an action plan to implement the recommendations.
A report was developed as a part of Phase III in March 2012. The report focused on a review of communications, bargaining and organizing. Based on the current budget debate, this report becomes even more relevant as OPSEU reviews ways to increase revenues through organizing. Also, the report provides recommendations to allow even stronger bargaining of collective agreements that expire over the next year
OPSEU’s Social Mapping Project is recognized as a pioneering initiative. In 2010, Barbara Hall, Chief Commissioner for the Ontario Human Rights Commission, said, “OPSEU’s collection of human-rights based data will certainly help, whether you’re looking for indications of gaps or ceilings in your organizations, or the ability to expand services to reach all members. OPSEU is not only doing the right thing, but the smart thing, and is leading a path in the labour sector by doing this important.”
As the project continues, OPSEU will forge a position as a leader within the labour movement as an inclusive union home in Ontario’s increasingly diverse work force.
Convention Update 2 – April 20, 2012
President warns of tumultuous road ahead
President Warren (Smokey) Thomas welcomed attendees to OPSEU’s Annual Convention 2012 Thursday morning. In his address, Thomas reflected on challenges OPSEU faced over the past year, the changing labour environment and the battles which lie ahead. He also called for an action plan to promote social change and to ensure sustainable jobs and public services for future generations.
It’s been a tough year
“Since our last convention, we have fought against wage restraints, faced public service cuts and austerity measures,” said Thomas. “We have run information pickets and other campaigns. And we have done all the stuff that some people will call old school. It is tried and true, and we will never give that up.”
OPSEU promoted member participation in the provincial election, resulting in a Liberal minority. If the Liberal budget from March is defeated, the province may face another election. A majority government, Conservative or Liberal, is bad news for members, their families and their communities as austerity measures will be deep and unchallenged.
“The economy is still in the tank. Nothing in the provincial budget leads me to believe we are on the road to job creation to enhance fairness,” said Thomas. “Though we do have a tremendous fight on our hands, we are up to the challenge.”
Forging strong alliances to promote change
OPSEU was involved in many campaigns this past year. These included the Occupy Movement and the creation of a partnership with the Public Services Foundation of Canada to respond to the Drummond Commission. OPSEU has also forged partnerships with First Nations groups, social agencies, and farmers’ groups. These continued partnerships with community groups, equity groups and associations are allowing OPSEU to be the voice for social change.
“Our union is changing the way unions are viewed in this province. We have become a leader in the provincial labour movement through our partnerships and work with community groups, equity groups, and other associations, like the Occupy Movement and the Ontario Harness Horse Association, to promote positive social change,” said Thomas.
Thomas spoke strongly in support of the temporary dues levy. Such an increase would ensure the union had the resources to implement a strong action plan and to ensure the strength of activism, solidarity, unity and expertise within the organization.
Creating a plan
On Day 2 of Convention, delegates will debate an action plan that will focus on ensuring income equality, human vitality and spending power after retirement, fully-funded and supported pensions, and quality jobs.
“We don’t go looking for fights, but we consider it a very provocative act if you cut services,” said Thomas. “We will challenge every cut in every service everywhere in this province. We would rather sit in a room and negotiate fair collective agreements and good, quality public services for all the people of Ontario,” said Thomas. “Dalton McGuinty, if you want a fight, may the force be with you. We will give you a fight like you have never seen.”
Toronto welcomes OPSEU
Marie Clarke Walker, Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Labour of Congress, welcomed us to this year’s Convention. She noted that this is a challenging time for labour and condemned Harper’s “heavy handed attacks” and urged us to support Ontario’s NDP.
Denise Wiese from Tourism Toronto returned for her second year. Tourism Toronto is a not-for-profit organization.
Wiese said that OPSEU’s Convention brings to Toronto over $1 million in food, beverage purchases, and 4,000 hotel room nights. She treated Convention attendees to a comedic video featuring Jann Arden and Rick Mercer which followed their adventure walk on the top of the CN Tower. On behalf of Tourism Toronto, Wiese presented a $10,000 cheque to OPSEU’s Social Justice Fund and also donated a gift certificate for the CN Tower “Edge Walk” to the Silent Auction. Proceeds from the Silent Auction (Room 104D) go to the Solidarity Fund.
Toronto Councillor Janet Davis welcomed OPSEU back on behalf of the City of Toronto. “Your union is making a difference,” she said. “We saw the most activism we’ve ever seen over the past year. It’s given us hope. The people in this city want and value public services and are willing to pay more taxes for them.”
Dues levy defeated after much debate
A motion for a temporary dues levy of 0.125 per cent was defeated Thursday afternoon after nearly two hours of debate and a standing vote count. Had the levy passed, member dues would have increased to 1.5 per cent until the 2014 Convention.
The rationale for the motion was to increase operating revenues to thwart attacks under the provincial austerity measures and other threats to this union, the labour movement as a whole and social equality.
Delegates say NO to electronic balloting
Delegates defeated the constitutional amendment to allow unit and local elections to be conducted using a secure electronic balloting system. Members in favour argued electronic balloting would encourage membership involvement and would allow the members in composite and remote locals to save time and money on travel. Delegates opposing the amendment spoke on the possibility of hackers skewing the results and the lack of face-to-face activism.
Who is here?
Delegates – 897
Alternates – 452
Observers – 169
Retirees – 6
EBMs – 20
Committees – 39
Solidarity Guests – 18
Guests – 14
Total – 1615
Convention Update1 – April 19, 2012
OPSEU bestows top honour on Broadbent
John Edward “Ed” Broadbent is the former leader of the federal New Democratic Party (NDP), well known as an honest and charismatic politician. His life of public service has focused on emphasizing tax reforms, the connection between economic development and human rights, equality for women, building stronger communities, ethics in government, and industrial organization.
Broadbent’s socialist leanings were not bred-in-bone. He was born in 1936 to Conservative-voting parents in the union-oriented company town of Oshawa, Ontario. His parents did not discuss politics. Throughout his high school years, Broadbent was an excellent student interested in current affairs, but it was his university experience that prompted him to declare himself a democratic socialist. He studied philosophy at Trinity College in the University of Toronto, graduating in 1959 first in his class. He went on to earn his doctorate in political science at the University of Toronto. Broadbent also trained as a Pilot Officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force University Reserve Training Plan.
Broadbent was a university professor when he was elected a Member of Parliament from the Oshawa-Whitby riding in 1968. By 1975, he was leader of the federal NDP, succeeding David Lewis. He remained leader of the party for 15 years before his retirement from political life in 1989.
Broadbent led his party through contentious constitutional debates (i.e. patriation of the Constitution, free-trade, Meech Lake Accord) and weathered a western revolt before capturing the party's biggest seat count ever in 1988 when they took 43 seats. This record remained unchallenged until the 2011 federal election, when Jack Layton led the party to capture an astounding 103 seats.
Though he retired from politics in 1989, Broadbent has continued to follow his passion for democratic rights and equality. He has authored and/or co-authored more than 10 books and is past director of the International Center for Human Rights and Democratic Development.
In 1993, Broadbent was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, the second highest honour for merit given in Canada. He was promoted to Companion to the Order in 2001.
Broadbent re-entered the political arena in 2004, coming out of retirement and winning a seat in the Ottawa Centre riding, citing “the deepening inequality in Canada.” He resigned in 2006 to care for his terminally-ill wife, Lucille.
In 2008, Broadbent came out of retirement once again to join former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien to help negotiate a formal coalition agreement between the Liberals and the New Democratic Party, which was supported by the Bloc Québécois. The coalition was formed in a bid to replace the Conservative Government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Had the coalition been successful, it would have been the first in Canada since World War I.
In 2011, Broadbent announced the creation of a new institute to explore social democratic policy and ideas. The Broadbent Institute will reach out to social democrat-leaning academics for their ideas, provide education and train activists, but be independent from any political party.
Broadbent is stepfather to Paul and the adoptive father of Christine. He enjoys the company of his four beautiful grandchildren, movies, reading and music from Billie Holiday to Maria Kallas. He is not a fan of rock ‘n’ roll.
The Stanley Knowles Award is given to the individual who best exemplifies the spirit, dedication and ideals of the late parliamentarian and social democrat, Stanley Knowles, through their commitment to social justice..
Human Rights Award—Individual
Greg Snider, Local 714, is a long-standing advocate for human rights, particularly for individuals with disabilities. In his 29 years of service in the Ontario Public Service (OPS), Snider has held many positions, including local president, founding member and Chair of the Disability Rights Caucus, Chair of the Human Rights Caucus and a member of the Ontario Federation of Labour’s (OFL) Persons with Disabilities Committee. He is also an active leader within his community, holding such positions as Chair of the Thunder Bay Labour Council, church board member and NDP riding executive board member. He is an active member on the Board of the Thunder Bay Injured Workers Support Group and has an avid interest in issues facing injured workers.
Though now semi-retired, Snider maintains a keen interest in a broad range of disability and broader human rights issues, both within and outside of OPSEU.
It’s these significant contributions that have earned Snider this year’s Human Rights Award for an individual.
Honourary Lifetime Membership Award
Paddy Musson, Local 110, has made significant contributions to union activism locally, provincially and nationally. As an educator, Musson was committed to quality education. She is an advocate for the rights of women and those that are marginalized. Musson was previously awarded the OPSEU’s Bread and Roses Award.
Musson’s tireless work has resulted in improvements in the colleges and education. She has mentored numerous activists, sharing her wisdom and guidance.
Linda Mugford has been the Treasurer of Local 310 for many years. Mugford is one of the founding members of the OPSEU Aboriginal Circle and has agreed to continue as a “friend of the circle” member now that she is retired. Mugford continues to be active in her First Nation community.
Don Jordan, Local 102, worked in the Ontario Public Service for 33 years until he retired in 2011. He worked at the Oxford Regional Centre and the London North Ministry of Labour.
Jordan has held the positions of local first Vice-President, Treasurer, and Secretary. Don served multiple terms as a Trustee on the OPSEU Pension Trust.
Every time there was a need for members to lobby a MPP, Jordan was there. Any time there was a bus trip, the London or Windsor buses made a stop in Woodstock to pick up Jordan. He has attended OFL Days of Action and was on strike twice with OPSEU, always a strong presence on the picket lines.
A workhorse within the region, Jordan allowed others to lead the parade, but was always an active participant.
Tim Brown Award
Pauline Saulnier is a passionate, proud Métis woman who has Métis ancestry on all sides of her family tree. Saulnier is the mother of three wonderful children; Benjamin, Ashley and Justin. She is the mé mére to two adorable grandchildren: Kaiden Pilon and Jolene Saulnier.
Saulnier has worked for the Ontario Government since 1987. Currently, she works as a Bilingual Ontario Disability Support Caseworker in Orillia. Saulnier joined the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) in 1996 and immediately began volunteering as a steering committee member for Métis Child and Family Services. In 1998 Saulnier ran for the position of Secretary of the Georgian Bay Métis Council (GBMC), and was elected president from 2000 to 2003. Under her presidential guidance the GBMC was able to obtain funding to open the “Métis Shoppe,” funding to celebrate Aboriginal Day, funding to create a board manual, to do fundraising and have council meetings and cultural awareness events such as floats, dances, etc.
In 2007, Saulnier joined the OPSEU Aboriginal Circle under Tim Brown’s leadership and became Vice-Chair of the OPSEU Aboriginal Circle in 2008. With Tim Brown’s passing, Saulnier was elected as his successor to the Chair of the Circle.
In 2010, Saulnier was honoured to receive the 2010 Suzanne Rochon Bennett Volunteer of the Year. The award recognizes individuals who contribute as a volunteer to Métis Nation of Ontario year round and have done so for a number of years.
Leah Casselman Award – Individual
Jennifer Smith, president of Local 334, demonstrated courage, solidarity and collective perseverance with her members during their eight-week strike at the Kawartha-Haliburton Children’s Aid Society.
She creatively engaged the members and the media to overcome the tyranny of a malicious executive director determined to break the union.
Leah Casselman Award – Local
Local 666 represents workers at the Child and Family Centre. These members serve hundreds of children throughout the Sudbury, Manitoulin and Chapleau regions who suffer from mental health and behavioural issues. As a no-fee service, the work of these skilled professionals is in high demand and is a lifeline to many, as well as a much-needed resource for other service providers, including the Children’s Aid Society and the Youth Justice system.
Increases in funding for children's mental health have been virtually non-existent for years. These members have gone above and beyond to meet the needs of the individuals they serve, even with the lack of funding, often putting client needs before their own.
In addition to funding issues, the members of Local 666 found themselves facing a relentless employer, determined to take from them while maintaining the director on the “sunshine list.” With an initial strike vote of 96 per cent, these activists took their fight to the street.
Despite freezing temperatures, they kept the heat on the employer while building friendships among themselves that will last a lifetime. No longer just “friendly co-workers,” the members of Local 666 became true union “brothers and sisters.”
After weeks on the picket line, the members of Local 666 ratified a contract that fought back the employer’s concessions, exemplifying union solidarity and strength.
Brought to you by In Solidarity
This is the nineteenth year that the editorial committee of In Solidarity has produced the daily updates. We will provide a record of Convention events and happenings.
Who we are:
Laurie Sabourin, Local 368
Karrie Ouchas, Local 340
Lisa Bicum, Local 125
Nancy Hart-Day, Local 234
Virginia Ridley, Local 116
Ex-officio members are:
James Tocker, Executive Board Liaison
Don Ford, OPSEU Communications.