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OPSEU’s got your back: September Newsletter

OPSEU’s got your back: September Newsletter

Blue and white graphic that says: "OPSEU's got your back!"
Blue and white graphic that says: "OPSEU's got your back!"

Together, we're a team.

A message from President Warren (Smokey) Thomas

I’m not a frequent Facebook user, nor am I on social media all day. I have too much to do for that. But because I’m Kingston born and bred, I do have many friends who share some of the things that are the subject of social media posts with me. One recent conversation includes comments and posts made by Mike Rodrigues, President of CUPE Local 1974 at Kingston General Hospital about me and my union, OPSEU.

OPSEU and CUPE are now setting out on paths that put us in each other’s way. The Public Sector Labour Relations Transition Act (PSLRTA) was created to make employers’ bargaining jobs easier under massive reconstruction of health services: fewer bargaining agents; fewer contracts; fewer headaches – at least for the hospital bosses. The Mike Harris Tories of the 1990s intended it that way. Nobody asked the unions what they thought about how this would work or not to improve patient services. It was never about that. But here we are, OPSEU and CUPE competing for each other’s members under that legislation – PSLRTA.

Now, I’m pretty competitive myself and I love my union – I’ve spent the better part of my adult life devoted to OPSEU and the movement it shares – but I do understand the paths one can choose whether in day-to-day living or in our jobs; one path is the high road, the other, less than that.

And, while I appreciate Brother Rodrigues’s comments about me may arise out of a sense of competition, I don’t understand the choices he’s making. Like it or not, we are in a legal process to represent workers who together create the gem of Kingston’s health care services we all enjoy.

Brother Mike and I will have to let the competition unfold, but as a friend and colleague of CUPE’s President Brother Fred Hahn, and a long-time health care activist alongside Brother Mike Hurley of OCHU, I know that the workers at KGH and Hotel Dieu can count on a great union in their futures no matter which union wins representation rights.

So let’s remember: we’re all here to make our community better and we can make each other better along the way but you’ve got to be on the right path to get there.

When you are a member of OPSEU, you are not alone. 

With OPSEU, you will receive excellent service and representation

With nearly 50,000 health care workers across Ontario, OPSEU is a recognized leader in the health care sector.

We’ve got a motto at OPSEU that we take very seriously: “Together, we’re a team.” And on this team of ours, we’re focused on uniting, not dividing members. OPSEU’s priority is to provide excellent service and representation to all members, equally, and regardless of their status. But perhaps it’s the members themselves who have said it best:

“As a casual represented by OPSEU, I’m treated with the same respect and enjoy the same rights as the full-timers. We all work hard, and contribute our part – there’s no reason why we should be treated as lesser than, and with OPSEU we absolutely aren’t.”

“Based on my conversations with colleagues, I honestly feel like we are treated so much better by OPSEU – it’s just a whole other level of support that we get.”

Local update: bargaining teams elected!

Thanks to the hard work of the members of locals 443 and 465, much progress has been made in preparation for the upcoming round of bargaining. The bargaining surveys, which provide insight into the “pulse on the ground,” have now been completed, demand set meetings have been held, and bargaining teams have been elected for both locals – Go team OPSEU!

OPSEU is proud to provide the members of each elected bargaining team two days of preparatory bargaining training. Bargaining team training has been set for the following dates:

Local 443: September 22nd and 26th
Local 465: October 31st and November 1st

Stay tuned as there is more information to come. In the meantime, we’ll look forward to seeing these elected members at training!

Mark your calendar for these upcoming events

Sept 23
Stewardship 1 course, Kingston Regional office

Oct 5, 3-6pm
RPN Meet and Greet with Smokey Thomas, Hotel Dieu Auditorium (Johnson 1)

Oct 28 and 29
Region 4 Member Educational, Nav Centre, Cornwall

Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) Update

On August 30th, representatives from OPSEU had their first meeting with the OLRB regarding the upcoming “PSLRTA” representation vote in Kingston. Although many of the specific details must be worked out, this will be an opportunity for employees at Hotel Dieu and KGH to choose the union they feel best represents them moving forward.

In May, CUPE filed a PSLRTA application (that’s the Public Sector Labour Relations Transition Act) to the OLRB. This initiated the PSLRTA process; a result of the merger of Hotel Dieu Hospital and Kingston General Hospital in April of this year.

Because of PSLRTA, all employees affected by the merger will have the opportunity to vote on who will be representing them; one union will be chosen. The vote dates are still to be determined, and OPSEU will return to meet with the OLRB in December to work out any remaining kinks and plan next steps in the PSLRTA process. We’ll be sure to keep you informed every step of the way!

It’s important to remember that after the vote is held, the union that is chosen will be responsible for negotiating common provisions, such as seniority and grievance procedures. Members of each union will continue to follow their existing collective agreement, until a new first contract is negotiated. OPSEU’s practice is to work with the members to choose the best language from both contracts to achieve the strongest possible new collective agreement for all members.

Interested in learning more about OPSEU?

Do you and/or your colleagues have questions for OPSEU?

Would you be interested in meeting with OPSEU to get more information?

This could be in a casual setting like a Tim Hortons, or a more formal meeting space. If you and your fellow colleagues would like a meeting specifically focused on your own classification, OPSEU would be more than happy to arrange this. No need to feel overwhelmed, even if you just have questions, you can always reach Patti Markland, OPSEU organizer, by phone at 416-802-8121 or by email at pmarkland@opseu.org. 

If you ever needed the union, who do you want representing you?

Choose the union that will serve you best; OPSEU's got your back.

Dear friends:

People tell me I’ve got a way with words. But sometimes words get away from me.

Back in May, I got myself in hot water during a union run-off vote in Sudbury. At one point, I used the expression, “I just wish they’d stick to their knitting” in reference to the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA).

What I meant was somewhere between “they should stick to what they know” and “they should mind their own business.” That’s not what some people heard. To some people, I was making a sexist remark about a union that is almost all female.

Recently, a Toronto politician got the same reaction when he said that chief city planner Jennifer Keesmaat should “stick to the knitting.”

“He might as well have told me to go back to the kitchen,” Keesmaat told a radio host. “I think it’s a deeply offensive comment.”

Toronto councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong apologized for what he said. So did I.

The whole episode taught me a lesson that I kind of already knew: sometimes it’s not what you mean that matters – it’s how it sounds.

I said ONA should “stick to their knitting” because it was an expression my mother used to use. When she said it, it was never addressed to girls or women or any gender in particular.

But that doesn’t matter. When I listen to it with other people’s ears, it does sound sexist. So
that’s a lesson learned.

The big problem with language is that it’s filled with metaphors, and sometimes nobody
remembers where they came from.

“Back burner.” “Cold turkey.” “Tough bananas.” Who knows where these come from? I don’t. But I do know that all of us who take the OPSEU Statement of Respect seriously – and I’ve read it out in a thousand meetings – have to be careful with the way we use language. And the best way to be careful is to listen honestly to the reaction our words get from others.

In August, Indigenous activist Candy Palmater did a great video about why we should
stop using offensive phrases like “off the reservation” and “lowest on the totem pole.”

“Words are real,” Palmater says in the video. “They count.” And, I would add, if they
sound offensive to the people you’re talking to, they are.

Take it from me: you’re never too old to learn. Or too important to say, “I’m sorry.”

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union

Contact us!

For more information, visit: www.kingstonhealthcare.org 
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