Indigenous welcome offers inspiring start to Convention 2023
OPSEU/SEFPO Convention 2023 opened with a procession led by the Indigenous Circle and guests. President JP Hornick, called the meeting to order at 9:17am, followed by the Land Acknowledgement and a reminder to members that words must be backed by action.
Knowledge Keeper and Elder Ethel LaValley then began the Indigenous welcome portion of the opening ceremonies, followed by Chief Stacey Laforme of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, and a performance by the Circle of Cedar Singers.
Acknowledging all Nations that call this region home, LaValley thanked OPSEU/SEFPO for the opportunity and privilege of delivering the welcoming message. She then spoke in prayer thanking the Creator for bringing members safely to Toronto.
Referencing the Seven Grandfather Teachings (wisdom, love, respect, bravery, honesty, humility, and truth), she asked the Creator for guidance and love over the next 3 days as members are faced with difficult decisions on behalf of “workers, children, our grandchildren, our future.”
Chief Stacey Laforme opened his speech using his own hair (dyed blue) as part of his message of celebrating our uniqueness, remarking, “it is not us that has to change to suit society”. He then went on to read a number of original poems and speak eloquently of self acceptance, belonging, diversity, and unity. Reflecting on the difficulties of the past few years, he said, “Who am I and where do I belong? The heart and spirit remember, even if we forget. Once we know who we are, we belong everywhere and anywhere.”
Referencing OPSEU/SEFPO’s Convention theme, Laforme reminded members to act respectfully toward each other, to “let children see you as you wish to be seen,” also noting, “when things get tough you stand shoulder to shoulder to make things better for everyone. Organize, fight, win.” He added, “No matter where life takes you, walk proud.”
The Indigenous welcome ended with a performance by the Circle of Cedar Singers, the first two-spirit trans group in Toronto. The group, comprised of Spotted Eagle Woman/Singing Wolf, Howling White Wolf, and Thunderbird of the South/Walking with Medicine, performed the AIM (American Indian Movement) Warrior Song. An apt choice, this song was used within the AIM grassroots movement to address systemic issues of discrimination and was originally performed as an act of taking back power.
The Indigenous welcome was the official start to the largest OPSEU/SEFPO Convention to date, with more than 1800 participants in person and online.
President Hornick highlights victories, maps the road ahead
OPSEU/SEFPO President JP Hornick delivered an inspiring address, highlighting the year’s organizing successes and political victories, while road mapping OPSEU/SEFPO’s member driven strategy to combat the Ford government.
Watch the video of President Hornick’s full address here:
OPSEU/SEFPO Convention attendees rally to send a clear message to Ford: Stop the privatization of healthcare
Photos by Alannah Kennedy
OPSEU/SEFPO healthcare members have been sounding the alarm on the health staffing crisis for years. From unconstitutionally imposed salary reductions, to bargaining rights being violated, to watching our public healthcare system under attack in favour of for-profit, private companies – the frustration level has hit its peak with Bill 60.
On Day One of the OPSEU/SEFPO Convention, a rally against Bill 60 with the Hospital Professionals Division took place at 12:30pm at Queen’s Park. A few hundred Convention attendees went to send a clear message to Doug Ford: “Fix the staffing crisis and stop the privatization of public healthcare!”
Sara Labelle, Regional VP for Region 3 and Chair of the Hospital Professionals Division stressed the importance of the timing of this rally. “[The Ford government] will be announcing the request for proposals as early as the fall, which means we have a window that we can push back and fight against the privatization of healthcare and what will no doubt be the end of public medicare in Ontario and across the country,” she said.
It’s clear that the Ford government has chosen to reward their wealthy donors at the expense of public healthcare. This government has manufactured a crisis to clear the path for healthcare privatization. For first-time Convention attendee Alannah Kennedy from Local 351, this is why it was important for her to attend the rally. “I am here today to show the Ford government that the people of Ontario won’t take his bullying anymore, that enough is enough, and we stand in solidarity with our healthcare providers” she said.
The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) is about a robust public healthcare system created to serve the interests of the general public, not those of private providers, and wealthy interests. We deserve a public healthcare system that prioritizes people, not profits.
Budget report will continue on Day Two of Convention
The evening before Convention started, First Vice-President/Treasurer Laurie Nancekivell and her staff team hosted a well-attended budget question and answer session. This was followed by the Financial Auditor’s Report on the opening morning of Convention, and Nancekivell’s first budget report in the afternoon.
The Financial Auditor’s report was presented by Joe Bates from MNP LLP. The auditors returned a “qualified opinion” that the financial statements reflect OPSEU/SEFPO’s financial position – the qualification being that the alleged fraudulent activity uncovered by the forensic audit makes it “unclear what adjustment, if any, is necessary to the classification of previous years’ expenditures, and the impact, if any, on opening fund balances at January 1, 2022.” The full Audited Financial Statements and Notes can be read here.
The 2023 Budget was presented by Nancekivell. The report states, “the 2023 Budget is an activist budget that is member-focused – with support and solidarity for members woven into every page.” After much discussion on the floor, the budget report was tabled and scheduled to continue discussion on Friday at 9:45 am.
Nancekivell fielded questions from delegates about the operating fund deficit from the previous year, the loss in value in the strike fund, and how to ensure accurate budget forecasts for future years. Nancekivell explained, “We can’t rely on historical costs [when preparing the 2023 budget] because there were many items on budget lines that were not accounted for” in previous years. So her team developed the budget using a “zero-based concept” which is “a method of budgeting in which all expenses must be justified for each new period,” as opposed to basing the budget on past years’ budget allotments and amounts spent.
Regarding the loss in value in the strike fund, Nancekivell explained that most of it could be attributed to the fact that two of the properties in the strike fund portfolio (The 155 Lesmill Road building, and the Education Centre property) had previously been “valued in our records at an amount that exceeded the appraised/market value reported. An impairment adjustment of $14,454,183 was made to reflect the appraised value.”
Delegates also questioned whether property assessments or appraisals were done when the two properties were purchased. Nancekivell responded that the previous board of directors did not receive a property assessment/appraisal or engineering reports prior to purchase. As a result, the exact details of the deficit are still being assessed by the forensic audit team and the legal team.
When asked how members can ensure proper oversight of finances in future, Nancekivell said that there will be “course correction opportunities at monthly Board meetings.” The three Audit Committee members also went to the mic and praised the current leadership’s “openness and transparency.”
The Budget Report discussion will continue Friday morning.
“We must never lose our voice again”: CUPE-OSBCU’s Laura Walton challenges members to help build a movement:
Laura Walton, President of CUPE-OSBCU (Ontario School Board Council of Unions), took to Convention stage Thursday afternoon to thunderous applause. Speaking to the importance of centering workers in the fight for improved working conditions, Walton reflected on her experience mobilizing CUPE-OSBCU workers last fall against the Ford government’s unfair bargaining practices.
Laura Walton became a household name in Ontario last November after CUPE-OSBCU education workers illegally walked off the job despite the Ford government passing Bill 28. The Bill sought to impose a four-year concessionary contract, stripping education workers of Charter rights, human rights, and any legal avenue to respond due to the inclusion of the notwithstanding clause. In response, 8,000 OPSEU/SEFPO Boards of Education members subsequently held a province-wide walk-out as a show of solidarity, supported by their Sector 3 Boards of Education and Cultural Institutions leadership and OPSEU/SEFPO leadership.
Other OPSEU/SEFPO members across regions and sectors also joined CUPE-OSBCU picket lines to send a strong message to the Ford government. Solidarity among unions led to the repeal of Bill 28 – a victory for all workers. Walton’s impassioned speeches and unique approach to mobilizing workers have garnered her praise among union activists.
In her address to OPSEU/SEFPO members, Walton acknowledged the unique relationship between CUPE-OSBCU and OPSEU/SEFPO. “No one knows [OSBCU] as well as OPSEU.” Walton echoed JP’s earlier remarks regarding the importance of trust within and between unions, “We are building trust between unions, and we will move forward together. When we join forces, we are a force that will make things happen.”
CUPE-OSBCU’s unique approach to bargaining, Walton explained, was borne out of reflection, “How CUPE [and other unions] were doing business wasn’t working”. According to Walton, it wasn’t working because it was missing the workers – it was mobilizing workers, but not centering them in the fight.
Change came when CUPE-OSBCU began asking workers what they were willing to do to defeat their employer, “If workers are going to win, it is on us to topple the structures and do the work. We must put workers in the centre of the fight”. They then embarked on a strategic approach to train and mobilize their membership. The result was historic gains for education workers.
According to Walton, continuing to centre workers involves collaboration between unions, noting that the strength of unions comes from our collective solidarity. Acknowledging the difficulties of union work, she also challenged the OPSEU/SEFPO membership to build a movement. This includes mapping worksites, generating accurate membership lists, and identifying members waiting to be activists. As Walton put it, these are, “organic leaders, the ones questioning the union”. She also emphasized the importance of talking about the labour movement and exercising our organizing muscle by taking interest in campaigns within our own union as well as labour councils. OPSEU/SEFPO members were encouraged to lean into union work even when it is hard and uncomfortable. “Change doesn’t come from a place of comfort,” said Walton.
Reflecting on the success of CUPE-OSBCU’s fight against the Ford government in bargaining, Walton advised members to celebrate all the wins and to continue a unified push for Ford’s resignation. “What we won was the liberation of workers’ voices. We must never lose our voice again.”
Rainbow Alliance arc-en-ciel hosts Queer Social
The Rainbow Alliance arc-en-ciel (RAA) provided a safe community space to relax and socialize on Thursday evening, drawing a crowd of approximately 40 people for laughter and conversation. In addition to good company, a poppin’ “Queer BBQ Playlist”, and inviting atmosphere, guests were also able to tap into their creative side making custom buttons.
When asked about the importance of holding events like the Queer Social, Billie Bridgewater, Co-Chair of the RAA responded, “It’s really important to have a space for community – a meeting space where our community can be together.” Billie reflected on how uncomfortable it can feel when such a space is not available, which is why the RAA makes a point of creating safe community spaces at OPSEU/SEFPO events. Another member in attendance added that events like the ones provided by RAA are important to members because they provide a space where, “people aren’t going to be judged for who they are”.
Day 1 Resolutions Committee and Constitution Committee Reports
OPSEU/SEFPO allotted more time for union business at Convention 2023 than any other Convention in the past. However, once the reports got started, most of the time was spent debating Robert’s Rules of Order, calling on the Advisor on Rules of Order, several times.
The following resolutions and constitutional amendments were dealt with on Thursday:
Statutory Resolution: A1 – Committee Recommendation: FOR
Therefore be it resolved that OPSEU/SEFPO take all necessary steps to file articles of continuance or such other applications as are required to continue the corporation as a non-profit corporation under the Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act in accordance with the OPSEU/SEFPO Constitution and by-laws;
Be it further resolved that the Executive Board refer constitutional amendments to the Constitutional Committee to amend references to the Corporations Act to refer to the Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, and to add to the history of OPSEU/SEFPO contained in the preamble of the Constitution;
Be it further resolved that the Executive Board refer the following resolution to Convention:
Therefore be it resolved that OPSEU/SEFPO take all necessary steps to file articles of continuance or such other applications as are required to continue the corporation as a non-profit corporation under the Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act in accordance with the OPSEU/SEFPO Constitution and by-laws.
(Submitted by the Executive Board)
Statutory Resolution A2 – Committee Recommendation: FOR
Therefore be it resolved that the Executive Board refer the following statutory resolution to Convention, in accordance with the requirements of the Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act:
Be it further resolved that as required by s 17 of the Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, Convention confirms and approves the actions of the Executive Board that created or amended a bylaw of OPSEU/SEFPO, as reflected in the minutes of the meetings of the Executive Board from the closing of the last Convention until the closing of this Convention.
(Submitted by the Executive Board)
Statutory Resolution A3 – Committee Recommendation: FOR
Therefore, be it resolved that the Executive Board refer the following statutory resolution to Convention, in accordance with the requirements of the Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act:
Be it resolved that in compliance with section 68 of the Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, MNP LLP is appointed Auditors of OPSEU/SEFPO for the fiscal year 2023 or until their successor is appointed.
(Submitted by the Executive Board)
Expenses Resolution J1 – Committee Recommendation: FOR
Carried as split and amended
Original Resolution: Therefore be it resolved that the OPSEU/SEFPO Meal Allowances be increased effective July 1, 2023 to $74 per day ($16 Breakfast, $23.00 Lunch and $35.00 Dinner) and further indexed annually on July 1st to the prior year’s Canadian Consumer Price Index as reported by Statistics Canada and rounded to the nearest dollar (based on the previous year’s actual non-rounded value).
(Submitted by Local 634. Also submitted by Local 416, Local 446, Local 672, Local 720, Kingston Area Council, Nipissing Area Council, Ottawa Area Council, Provincial Human Rights Committee, Provincial Women’s Committee & Thunder Bay and District Area Council)
This resolution was referred back to the Resolutions Committee to increase the meal amount as laid out in the original resolution to $83 per day ($20 for breakfast, $27 for lunch, and $36 for dinner). After reviewing the cost, the committee recommended FOR these adjusted amounts. After more debate around rules, the motion was split in two: a motion on the actual increase and a motion on the annual index based on the Canadian Consumer Price Index.
After successful votes on closure for both parts, the adjusted motions were carried.
Constitutional Amendment H3, Article 13 – Conventions
Committee Recommendation: Acceptance
Therefore, be it resolved that, the Constitution be amended to allow Locals to elect as many alternates to Convention, Regional and Divisional meetings as they need, but only to bring a number of alternates equal to their number of delegates to the actual meeting.
(Submitted by Local 277, Local 416, Local 446, Local 449, Local 672 and Kingston Area Council)
Constitutional Amendment H9, Article 6 – Membership
Committee Recommendation: Acceptance
Therefore, be it resolved that, OPSEU/SEFPO amend Constitution Article 6.4 to the following:
“Notwithstanding the provisions of any other article of this Constitution, a Member subject to regular seasonal, short-term lay-offs, and/or indefinite lay-off may remain in good standing for up to one year while laid off without payment of dues, but a Member subject to permanent layoff shall not be eligible for continuing membership for any period of the lay-off”.
(Submitted by Kingston Area Council, Nipissing Area Council, Orillia Area Council, Thunder Bay and District Area Council, Provincial Human Rights Committee, Provincial Women’s Committee, and Provincial Young Workers Committee)