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In Solidarity – The newsletter for OPSEU Stewards and Activists, Spring/Summer 2011

In Solidarity Spring/Summer 2011

Cuts hurt us all

Starting this summer, Premier Dalton McGuinty will eliminate 1,900 vital public service jobs. At the same time, he is giving away billions in tax cuts to rich corporations. If the Liberals are re-elected October 6, more job cuts are planned for next year. As well, the Liberals aim to contract out or privatize services.

If elected, Conservative Leader Tim Hudak will cut even more jobs and privatize services.

Public services are delivered by people. Whether a job is eliminated by attrition – not replacing a retired employee – or by a layoff, there is an impact on the services that people rely on.

A job cut is a service cut.

Public service cuts pay for corporate tax cuts

All the money the government will save from cuts to public services will pay for corporate tax cuts, monster bonuses and sky-high wages of corporate CEOs.

Dalton McGuinty is giving away $2.4 billion a year in tax cuts to profitable corporations. Conservative Leader Tim Hudak will do the same if he becomes Premier.

The latest figures from Statistics Canada show that private companies in Canada are sitting on $471 billion in cash – and that doesn’t include the profits held by the banks.

Companies aren’t using their cash reserves to invest in their businesses and create jobs. They are hoarding the money. So why are we giving them even more cash to sit on?

The Liberal Plan
(as outlined in the 2011 Ontario Budget):

  • $1.5 billion in spending cuts over 3 years
  • review of all programs directly delivered by government for possible privatization
  • review of all programs funded by government for possible privatization
  • further 1,500 job cuts for total job losses of 5,000 by 2014

The Conservative Plan
(according to their election platform):

  • 2 per cent annual cut to spending, leading to $2.3 billion in cuts by the fourth year, say the Liberals
  • require public sector workers to compete with the private sector for government contracts
  • evaluate government assets for sell-off
  • cut an undisclosed number of jobs

The latest figures from Statistics Canada show that private companies in Canada are sitting on $471 billion in cash – and that doesn’t include the pr

Members of the OPS have mounted a widereaching campaign to bring to light the effects of these job cuts. The plan is to make the cuts a pivotal talking point going into the October 6 provincial election.

To learn more, go to http://opseu.org/ops/ campaigns/cutshurtusall/index.htm

I am a public service worker and damn proud of it!

Felicia Fahey, In Solidarity

Picture this:

  • an Ontario with no teachers; your kids are home schooled.
  • an Ontario where you can’t drink your own tap water.
  • an Ontario where you can’t call 911 in an emergency because there are not enough paramedics to respond to emergencies.
  • an Ontario where criminals walk free because our jails are too full and we don’t have enough correctional officers.
  • an Ontario where the government decides when you get married because licenses take six months to get as there is not enough staff to keep up.
  • an Ontario where a loved one dies alone and afraid because we cut the budget in palliative care homes.
  • an Ontario where you are diagnosed with breast cancer but you can’t get the treatments because we no longer have health coverage.
  • Just picture it. Can you see it? Now picture…
  • an Ontario where the Government cares about its people and our public services.
  • an Ontario where teachers have small class sizes and an educational assistant to help teach our children and help to make them the best that they can be.
  • an Ontario where we feel safe walking the streets.
  • an Ontario where everyone has a family doctor and access to health care.
  • an Ontario where a post secondary education doesn’t give our children a “second mortgage.”
  • an Ontario where we have affordable housing and people are not living below the poverty line.
  • an Ontario that cares about our environment and helps to protect it.
  • an Ontario with affordable, accessible daycare.
  • an Ontario where we are proud of our province once again.

That is the Ontario I want to live in, and there is no reason we can’t. At the end of September 2010, I had the privilege of attending a training session with the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE). The training was for a campaign we are working on called “Champions for Change.” The campaign asks all of us to think of the job we do and why it is so vitally important to our communities. We are not stopping there though. We must promote the great job we do and tell people why we are proud of it.

This campaign also asks us to join the grassroots word-of-mouth campaign and fight for tax fairness across the country. Currently, our taxation system favours the rich, and the middleand lower-classes’ tax rate is almost 20 per cent higher. The system is getting worse every year, and the income gap between classes is growing. We (Continued from page 3) have to speak up now and say, “It has to stop. We, as Canadians, are no longer going to take it.” Champions have been trained in areas all over the country and they are having town hall meetings to spread the message.

Join the campaign as it comes to your community. Champions will be holding demonstrations and days of action until the government finally listens. Follow us on our website www.alltogethernow.ca. Take time to talk to your family, friends, coworkers and whoever you can to make this campaign work. The time is now. We cannot wait. Stand up and take back your country. Stand up and say, “I am a public service worker and I am damn proud of it.”

Labour’s poster girl


THE 17-YEAR-OLD Michigan factory worker who inspired the iconic World War II poster of Rosie the Riveter beneath the famous “We Can Do It!” slogan, died at age 86.

Geraldine Doyle passed away on Dec. 26 in Lansing, Michigan.

A Washington Post obituary says Doyle happened to be on the job in a metal factory just a few weeks after graduating from high school in 1942 when a United Press International photographer shot a picture of her leaning over a piece of machinery. She was wearing a red and white polka-dot bandanna over her hair.

At the time, Westinghouse Corp. had commissioned artist J. Howard Miller to produce several morale-boosting posters for display inside its buildings.

Taken with the photo, Miller decided to base one of his posters on the anonymous, young metal worker.

The poster and the name “Rosie the Riveter” came to symbolize the millions of women who entered the World War II workforce and who worked in war industries such as shipyards, munitions plants and airplane factories.

With millions of men away fighting the war, women performed these vital jobs in droves, forever changing the nature of the workforce in North America and around the world.

“Rosie the Riveter is the image of an independent woman who is control of her own destiny,” said Gladys Beckwith, former director of the Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame. “She was a gracious, beautiful woman. Her death is the end of an era, and we need to take note of that. We need to respect what she stood for.”


Appealing a Workplace Safety and Insurance Decision

Lisa Bicum, In Solidarity

I n the last issue of In Solidarity, we examined the process of reporting workplace injuries and how to initiate Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) claims. Although there are many steps to initiating a WSIB claim, the process all seems straight forward; however, there are additional steps to take if your claim is denied.

What"s my first step?

According to OPSEU WSIB Fact Sheet #2, your first step is to notify WSIB in writing that you would like to appeal the Case Manager’s decision. Your letter needs to include the following:

  • Claim number
  • Decision maker"s name
  • Date of ruling
  • A clear explanation of what it is that you are appealing
  • Why you think the decision is wrong

From there, make sure to attach any additional information (medical reports, witness statements, etc.) that will support your appeal. Also, make sure to ask for a copy of your WSIB claim file and an Objection Form. Once the letter is complete, it needs to be faxed to the Case Manager. It’s always wise to keep a record of the fax transmittal and to follow up that the fax was received.

***Please note: there is a time limit to this process. There is a strict deadline for your appeal, and if the deadline is not met, the appeal will not be considered.

What happens next?

Once the appeal has been received, the Case Manager will review supporting evidence and will make a decision to award or to not award WSIB benefits. If the decision stands at no award, you can fill out the Objection Form. Your claim will then be addressed by the Appeals Branch of the WSIB where an Appeals Resolution Officer (ARO) will be assigned to your case.

If your ARO upholds the original decision, you have the right to send your claim to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal (WSIAT). This set of forms (WSIAT Notice of Appeal) must reach the WSIAT within six months of the date of the final WSIB decision. This form is available on the WSIAT site: www.wsiat.on.ca. The same process follows: fill out the form, keep copies, send the forms to WSIAT, and check that the forms have been received.

What if the WSIAT does not rule in my favour?

In the end, if the WSIAT does not overturn the decision to deny benefits, the process is over as decisions made at this level are final.

Is there anything else OPSEU can do to help?

If you have any additional questions, the OPSEU Benefits Unit can be reached at (416) 443-8888 or 1-800-268-7376 ext. 8662. Also, if your claim makes it to the ARO or WSIAT level, it is wise for you to be represented by someone from OPSEU Benefits.

Finally, WSIB Fact Sheet #3 “OPSEU Assistance with WSIB Issues” is available to help you with any other questions you may have. Contact the OPSEU Resource Centre.

Landlord fined for anti-gay discrimination


A LANDLORD in the Northwest Territories who refused to rent an apartment to a gay couple has been fined more than $13,000.

Human rights adjudicator, James Posynick, writing on behalf of an arbitration panel, has ordered William Goertzen of Yellowknife to pay $6,500 each to Scott Robertson and Richard Anthony for discriminating as a landlord against them.

The two men filed a complaint in June 2009, alleging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Goertzen did not deny the accusation but defended himself on the basis of religious beliefs.

In its ruling, the panel found that Goertzen had originally agreed to let the two move into the apartment, receiving a deposit cheque of $1,125, but upon hearing they were in a long-term samesex relationship, he changed his mind.

“Goertzen had no intention of honouring his agreement with the complainants because he believes that same-sex relationships are ‘unnatural and against nature’ and ‘the Bible warns against being associated with such wickedness and there would be undue hardship upon him’ if he would let them live there,” the decision said.

The adjudicator said he found no evidence in the Bible or in encyclopedia excerpts filed by Goertzen to show he would suffer such harm if he rented to the couple.

The landlord was ordered to pay the couple $5,000 each “for injury to dignity, feelings and selfrespect” as well as $1,500 for punitive damages. In addition, Robertson was granted $400 for wages while pursuing the complaint.

OPSEU report from Wisconsin

March 11, 2011 – In Solidarity

(Madison, WI.) What began three weeks ago here as an unprecedented assault by the Governor of this state on the wages, benefits and collective bargaining rights of public sector employees has extraordinarily transformed itself into a struggle with profound implications for working people across North America.

That much has become apparent this week as thousands of ordinary people in Wisconsin and beyond have joined with public service unionists in a fight against a Republican state government which no longer bothers to disguise the fact that its decision to crush labour rights is dictated by the interests of Corporate America.

In short, Wisconsin has become the battle field between the working class and the ruling class. It is no longer simply a labour fight to protect collective agreements, but a struggle that affects the social, economic and political well being of all common folk.

The evidence of this is apparent on the streets that border the State Capitol building in Madison where virtually all sectors of society, unionized and otherwise, have joined forces in common cause to oppose the historic undermining of labour rights. Students, the elderly, independent business owners, people of faith, military veterans, retirees, law enforcement officers and a host of others have joined with state employees, teachers, health care givers, college and university educators, emergency services providers and private sector unionists in a remarkable spirit of solidarity.
To walk the streets around the capitol building is to observe signs in dozens of shop windows that proudly declare “This Business Supports Working Families!” It’s hard to imagine similar declarations on the main streets of our own cities and towns. 

While the anger on the streets of Madison is undisputedly real, there is, too, joy on the faces of many that one suspects is the result of joining forces is such overwhelming numbers. There is, indeed, strength in unity and the unshakeable belief that history is on the side of working people and their hopes and aspirations for a better quality of life for themselves and their families.

This vast demonstration of worker unity is certain to have profound implications for what could unfold in Ontario in the not so distant future.

While there are significant differences between Wisconsin and Ontario – the overall rate of unionization is higher in Ontario than it is here, for example – there are underlying factors at work that suggest the two jurisdictions may have more in common than what might appear at first glance.

Foremost among those factors that link Ontario and Wisconsin are governments that clearly place corporate interest above the interests of working people. Like in Ontario, the Wisconsin government insists that its budget deficit is the product of public sector wage and benefits and that those negotiated terms must be rolled back if budgets are to be balanced.

This, of course, is nonsense, but it is an effective tool to arouse hostility against public sector workers.

Another factor common to both jurisdictions is the unshakeable belief by the ruling political elite that corporate tax cuts are the panacea to all economic ills and that they will somehow magically lift the economy by its bootstraps. In Wisconsin the governor boasts that his tax-cutting scheme will create a quarter million jobs. Where have we heard the same misguided declaration in Ontario?

Then, too, there is the hidden political agenda. In Wisconsin the governor insists he campaigned last year on a platform of contract rollbacks and union busting. The evidence, as uncovered by the state media, reveals that no such strategy was advocated during the election campaign. With an election only seven months away in Ontario, every pronouncement by the Liberals and Conservatives under Tim Hudak must be thoroughly investigated to ensure that there is no “gotcha” moment under our next provincial government.

In the meantime public sector unionists in Ontario can take a considerable measure of delight and gratification in the working class forces at work today in Wisconsin. Despite legislative setbacks in the State assembly, the real voice of democracy is on display on the streets of Madison. It’s a voice that won’t be silenced any time soon.

Acceptance of gender profiling

Tim King, In Solidarity

People of the world have been victims of stereotyping, gender misalignment, and unfair rewards and recognition practices. Not long ago employers and society categorized women in the workplace as lesser beings, not worthy for equal pay and benefits and not able to perform the same duties and tasks of those of the male persuasion. For more than a century, this has been the accepted practice and has gone unchallenged.

The World Wars occurred. Women were told they could not fight in the wars, but they were equally skilled in replacing men in manufacturing plant and munitions factories, expected and able to produce the same quality of work (though for lesser pay).

Years have gone by while our union sisters and brothers untiringly fight employers and society for equal pay, equal treatment and equal respect. Though we are much closer to the desired result, the battle continues. People are more aware that it is no longer acceptable to discriminate against race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, record of offences, marital status, same-sex partnership status, family status and disability.

Despite increased awareness, the average consumer is forced to accept discrimination on a daily basis. Big businesses, marketing firms and service providers continue to be guilty of promoting discrimination through gender profiling. Consider these examples.

Many car dealerships and automotive garages take advantage of women in regards to service costs. Women’s toiletries and hygiene products are more expensive than most men’s similar products. “His and hers” jackets are not usually the same price. Why are tool kits marketed for women more expensive, than the same tools in a general hardware store? Why can a man’s haircut to remove inches of hair cost around $30 and a woman’s trim can cost up to $50? Why are there only twenty hair dyes for men and a whole aisle for women at drug stores and major department store chains ? These are a few of the “accepted” injustices we ignore or just accept.

One last question: Why do male drivers pay higher insurance premiums than women do? It is arguable who really is worse, men or woman drivers. Both equally have flaws… big flaws… but should it matter?

Doesn’t the law recognize that people are innocent until proven guilty? The public service and many private organizations pride themselves as equal opportunity employers. Employees are individually recognized and not grouped together and generalized. To generalize an entire gender is going back to decades and centuries past that, “Men are good labourers and woman cannot handle the same work.” Thankfully this stigma had mostly been removed.

Each driver should be treated and recognized individually with insurance premium increases or reductions based on their driving history alone. No one likes it, but the whim of capitalist big business calls the shots.

When will the public stand up to corporate consumerism and service industries alike and tell them to treat everyone as equals and without penalty? The culture has changed regarding gender equality in the employment world – when will the rest follow suit?

A giant step to FULL and EQUAL participation


Cindy Haynes, Chair of Provincial Women’s Committee

Coverage amounts and guidelines for this care is according to OPSEU policy found on the back of every Expense Claim Form which is in line with Ontario Human Rights Commissions accommodation based on Family Status.

Thinking back to my early activism days – way back in the 1980s – I was a single mother of three young daughters. I struggled with barriers. I experienced numerous challenges balancing home and work life.

One of those challenges was my ability to participate in union activities. I wanted to attend everything I could—local meetings (which were then held at a nearby bar & grill), educationals, conferences, and the annual convention. My first convention was in 1984, when my youngest daughter, Chivon, was five months old (she’s now 27). The day care staff in Toronto were so happy to have such a small baby in their care. I must remind you that, in those days, maternity leave was seventeen weeks. If a woman took three weeks before her due date, she had only fourteen weeks after the birth before she was required to return to work. A baby was just three months old when a mother had to have everything in order to return to work. Our OPS Collective Agreement included wage top-up for classified employees, which helped ease the financial burden of being off to bond with your newborn.

As a correctional officer, I worked shift work—weekdays, weekends, days, and nights. There was continued confusion over child care. That was challenging! Time management, life/work balance, and union involvement were a struggle. Due to my commitment, focus, and tremendous support from my local executive, I managed to juggle enough to participate in and educate myself through the union’s educationals. I progressed enough to involve myself in Systemic Change/Anti-Racism training for Corrections, Human Rights, and Women’s Issues for OPSEU.

The Provincial Women’s Committee recently celebrated 25 years of a structured, growing women’s movement, and we now make up 70 per cent of OPSEU’s members. Like me, many OPSEU women want to progress, grow, and participate in the labour movement. It all starts at the local level. All union meetings, regional educationals, union picnics and family events are stepping stones to individual growth, and every member needs barriers lifted in order to become involved. Child/elder/dependant care is a huge challenge today.

As stewards, local executives, and local presidents, we all represent OPSEU and take the oath to uphold the union policies, principles, and the Constitution. We are supportive and accountable as activists of our union. We must accommodate members who need assistance based on family status. We must also comply with the Ontario Human Rights Code for accommodations. We must make our meetings and events accessible for those with disabilities, and we must accommodate our members for child/elder/dependant care (Family Status) even at the local level. Locals must cover the expenses of their members who need this care in order to participate. Within our often blended family structures, today’s modern family includes elders, children, grandchildren, step and half children, adoptive children and family members with special needs. Coverage for members is done by filing an expense claim and submitting it to the local executive or OPSEU member organizing the meeting or event.
Our child/elder/dependant care policy is stated on the back of every OPSEU claim form:

“Members are entitled to reimbursement of reasonable costs of family/dependent provided by someone other than his/her partner, spouse as a result of absences from home arising from the conduct of union business. Such allowance is not intended to reimburse the claimant for dependant/family expenses he/she would have normally incurred as a result of employment except where the absence exceeds the normal workday or week.

Family/Attendant care will be reimbursed at the rate of $6.00 per hour to a maximum of 12 hours. The overnight fee is $40.00 to a maximum of $112.00 per 24 hours period and must be signed by the child care provider(s).

Members who bring their children to union events will be entitled to single accommodations and meal expenses. Claims for these expenses should also be included in the family care column of the form and described appropriately.”

Expense claim forms are available from local presidents or any regional office. The regional office address can be found on the OPSEU website.

Any member who requires family/dependant care in order to participate in any local general membership meetings, union activities, or events is entitled to this coverage. It is extremely important that members are aware that full participation is encouraged, promoted and allowed.

Local executive members and stewards are conducting business on behalf of OPSEU and are required to uphold the OPSEU Constitution and policies, which include the child/elder/dependant care policy, as well as, removing barriers to full participation.

If any local is experiencing financial concerns or difficulties about accommodating members based on family status, it should contact the OPSEU Equity Unit which oversees the accommodation fund. This fund is established to assist members and locals who have special concerns or needs, relating to Ontario Human Rights Code grounds (disability, family status, gender, creed, etc.). This will in turn alleviate locals from undue hardship and will allow for full participation for all members.

If members experience any unreasonable denials for child/elder/dependant care assistance from their local executives for participation in OPSEU events, meetings or activities they are to contact

  • Any advisor for OPSEU Harassment/ Discrimination Prevention policy
  • A regional equity member – PWC Representative, HRC Representative or YWC Representative.
  • The OPSEU Equity Officer at Head Office, 1-800-268-7376
  • His or her Executive Board Member

(All contact information for the above can be found on the OPSEU website, www.opseu.org)

The Provincial Women’s Committee is pleased to support our union in its efforts to accommodate today’s modern family, and we encourage full participation for all members at union functions.



‘We must be responsible in what we blog’

Lisa Bicum, In Solidarity Committee

When presented with this quandary regarding blogging, I couldn’t help but think of some famous words of Eleanor Roosevelt which were brought to my attention:

Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.

In this quotation lies what could be the answer: our responsibility. When we blog or post anything to the Internet, we walk along the fine line of what is appropriate and what is not. We also walk a fine line between freedom of speech and censorship. The answer to the question of whether or not blogging is appropriate may never be answered in my lifetime; however, all of us can do our best to protect our rights and freedoms while functioning in this digital age.

Never before have we seen such a surge of information coming at us from all directions. In the Internet age, anyone can be a rock star, super hero, celebrity, harbinger of information, or journalist. Do I think it’s all good? I’d be lying if I said I did. Still, I realize the slippery slope we traverse once we start imposing limitations on a person’s right to give his or her opinion.

Fortunately, our freedom of speech is nicely outlined in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Along with freedom of religion, peaceful assembly, and association is our “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.” Did the people drafting this document know what kind of anonymous turd sandwiches were about to be served on the Internet? Nope. However, media is media.

Importantly, we need to think of how we can apply these rights for good and not for evil. I’m very thankful for my rights and freedoms as a Canadian, and I wouldn’t want to be told how to think, who to vote for, or not to organize. Heck, if I wasn’t allowed to organize, you wouldn’t be able to read this glowing op-ed piece. Yet, I agree that many people, especially in these years of instant fame via the Internet, cross the line of propriety and enter into hateful, useless bashing.

Can blogging be good? Yes. The internet showcases excellent examples of how credible information and eloquent writing can be combined to aid providing instant information for many, but with the good we must take the bad. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that we must be responsible in what we blog as we must be responsible in what we say and do.

Perhaps each time we post we can think of these intrinsic rights we have. Maybe we can think before we hit “enter.” I hope that we can think twice so that we can preserve the rights we have for those who will come after us.

‘Blogging is bringing down our society’


Felicia Fahey, In Solidarity Committee

The thought of blogging being freedom of speech is a poor excuse to allow people to bully one another. The fact of the matter is that blogging, or online commenting, is bringing down our society. There is no way that newspapers province-wide would ever publish an anonymous letter to the editor, but they have no problem allowing people to write whatever they want on online websites for their papers. Any given day you can go to the Toronto Star website or the Sudbury Star website, or any media website for that matter, and you can find people putting down and criticising others they do not even know.

There has to be something said about editorial policy in the print media to ensure even when they may not agree with the writer that they still ensure the letter is a viable piece before they publish it. Having a name on a letter verifies who wrote it, and it makes the author accountable for his or her words. It is fine to say blogging is freedom of speech when that speech has no author, no consequence, or reason— it just doesn’t cut it.

I think blogging was specifically designed so that right wing companies and politicians could hire people to spread their disease and propaganda. These newspaper and media outlets started the comments section and allowed it to run out of control; it is their responsibility to moderate these sections. They could hire or use some of their journalists to work these comment sections if it is, in fact, open and insightful dialogue they are seeking; if they are not willing to do that, then it must be shut down. Many news sites link up with third party companies who will look after the comments section, moderate and take control of the direction of the section. These uncontrolled sites are not doing anyone any good. Imagine if the newspaper owners ran their papers like they run their comment section – just the paper but no writers. Businesses do not work without employees; it would be like opening a coffee shop but not hiring staff for it. Until blogging is somehow regulated, I do not think it should be allowed on media websites at all. Having a personal blog is one thing; at least people have the option of visiting the site if they choose. The idea, however, of going to a media site to view the daily news and being bombarded with wild opinions and unaccountable bullying should not be allowed. I say we lobby our local media outlets to take responsibility for these reckless sections or shut them down.


‘Have a safe and healthy day’

Lisa McCaskell, OPSEU Health and Safety Officer

Whenever OPSEU Local 500 members receive an e-mail from Jackie McKenzie, it always ends with, “Have a Safe and Healthy Day.” Everyone who knows Jackie and who has worked with her on health and safety issues knows she doesn’t say that casually – she really means it! For more than ten years, Jackie has been working tirelessly at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) to try to ensure that OPSEU members and all employees at CAMH have a safe and healthy day at work. Union members at Local 500 could not have a better advocate to act on their behalf every single day.

Jackie, who works as an Education Consultant, first joined CAMH’s Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) in 2000. Five years later she became the Worker Co-chair of the committee. The CAMH committee has been steadily making progress during these years despite major challenges posed by an employer who has often been reluctant to address health and safety issues head-on.

Jackie’s strengths are many and they are perfectly suited to the often difficult environment at CAMH. Her quiet persistence and unflappable good humour, combined with her knowledge and ability to research, have helped her meet one challenge after another. Also crucial is her ability to work as part of a team – this is critical at CAMH where decisions on every issue always seem to require input from a wide array of departments and individuals. Her ability to work effectively and cooperatively with the other trade union at CAMH – the Ontario Nurses’ Association – is also key. As with most hospitals in Ontario, there is more than one union present to represent different classifications of workers. This can often add an extra layer of complication to JHSC activities. At CAMH, the two unions have learned they must work together. Their successes, especially recently with workplace violence issues, are proof of the importance of cooperation and coordination between unions.

Jackie describes her approach to teamwork: “I do not work in isolation to make these accomplishments happen but instead work alongside the employer, managers, workers and the members of JHSC to understand the workplace and to put in place policies, procedures, safe work practices, personal protective equipment… to create a safe and healthy workplace.”

During Jackie’s tenure, the JHSC has had a number of important accomplishments. After a long fight that involved a work refusal, complaints to the Ministry of Labour, an employer appeal to the Ontario Labour Relations Board, and endless committee and subcommittee meetings, forensic clients requiring transportation to and from CAMH are now properly assessed for the risk of violence before being transported. And when they are moved, they travel in a customized CAMH vehicle, thus protecting the safety of the escort staff and the driver.

Another major accomplishment during the time Jackie has been on the JHSC, also involves forensic clients. Previously, when a client was being admitted to CAMH directly from the court system, he or she could arrive at CAMH, transported by court officers, with little warning and insufficient information. This practice put staff and other clients at risk if the forensic client had the potential for violence that staff were unaware of. Again, after much hard work over more than a year, involving the Ministry of Labour, an employer appeal of MOL orders and hours of meetings, CAMH agreed to assign a staff person from the Law and Mental Health Unit to the court to assess clients and to provide that assessment and other important information to the forensic unit before the client arrives. This practice has resulted in a measurable improvement to safety conditions for workers in this unit.

It is important to note that these improvements were made before the introduction of the workplace violence provisions to the Occupational Health and Safety Act in 2010, when the Ministry of Labour was reluctant to get involved with workplace violence issues involving hospital patients/clients and employers were more resistant to addressing workplace violence.

The employer’s agreement to issue personal alarms to all staff who work in client areas is another important victory. Not only nursing staff, but support staff such as housekeeping, maintenance and food services, now wear personal alarms when they enter a hospital unit or client program area, thanks to the dedicated work of the JHSC chaired by Jackie.

Local 500 President and Regional Vice President, Nancy Pridham, describes an incident at a local union membership meeting where she was discussing staff complaints about filling out detailed electronic incident reports (called SCORE reports) when there had been an event affecting staff or patient safety. Staff were complaining about the time it took to fill out yet another form. Jackie leapt out of her seat at the meeting to convince members of the importance of the information provided on the SCORE. She pointed out that, “This is how the committee tracks all the incidents that occur in the workplace. We see how many assaults take place; where they happen; what areas; if there are common themes or triggers?” Nancy reports, “Suddenly, those forms had meaning, and members recognized that the way to get assistance was to fill out a SCORE report, which was sent to the JHSC Committee and would come to the attention of Jackie.”

Although Jackie is known for her patience and persistence, she is also knows when it’s time to call the Ministry of Labour (MOL) for help – to lodge a new complaint if the JHSC can’t move an issue forward; when the employer has failed to comply with an MOL inspector’s order; or if there has been a particularly serious health and safety event involving staff. There have been a number of serious assaults of staff at CAMH in recent years, resulting in numerous MOL visits and orders. In 2008, the MOL launched a prosecution of CAMH for violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act after a number of serious assaults and near misses in 2007 and 2008. In 2009, this prosecution resulted in fines of $70,000 to the hospital.

Through all of these events, Jackie and her sisters and brothers on the JHSC have never stopped pressing their employer to fulfill its responsibilities under the Act. Because of her dogged persistence, realistic optimism, humour and ability to work so effectively with the whole committee, all employees at CAMH are working in a safer environment. As Jackie says, she just wants a workplace where “all staff can return safely to their homes and families at night.”

Shun the sun to reduce skin cancer

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

Outdoor workers exposed to sun at high risk for skin cancer
What do sailors, surveyors, landscapers and postal carriers have in common? They all work outdoors and are regularly exposed to the sun for long periods of time.

This puts them at a high risk for developing skin cancer, according to the Canadian Dermatology Association (CDA). Adding to the danger for outdoor workers is the fact that they are often in the sun when the sun"s harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation is at its strongest, between noon and 2 pm.

Who Is At Risk?

  • agricultural workers
  • farmers
  • construction workers
  • pipeline workers
  • ranchers
  • athletes
  • fishermen
  • landscapes
  • police
  • ski instructors
  • brick masons
  • lifeguards
  • oilfield workers
  • postal workers
  • sailors
  • loggers
  • open-pit miners
  • surveyors

How To Reduce The Risk Of Skin Cancer From Sunlight
It is important to be aware of the risks and take precautions while under the sun from as early in life as possible. The good news is that skin cancer is largely preventable. You can protect yourself in these ways:

Reduce exposure to sunlight. Try to limit the amount of time you work outdoors in the sun, especially from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm when the sun"s rays are the most intense. Seek shade from buildings, trees, canopies, etc., as much as possible, especially during lunch and coffee breaks. Be aware that water, white sand or concrete, snow, and ice can reflect from around 10 percent to 85 per cent of the sun"s ultraviolet radiation. Your skin may require extra protection against these indirect, reflected rays.

Wear protective clothing and sunglasses. Wear clothing that covers as much of your body as possible, made from fabrics which do not let light through. Not all clothing offers the same protection. For example, a white cotton T-shirt may have an SPF of 7 while a long-sleeved denim shirt has an estimated SPF of 1700. Some fabrics like cotton lose about 50 per cent of their SPF rating when they get wet. For additional protection, wear wrap-around sunglasses that absorb UVA and UVB radiation, and a wide-brimmed hat (more than 8 cm or 3 inches). If you wear a construction helmet, attach a back flap to cover the back of your neck and a visor for the front of the face.

Use protective sunscreens. You should generously apply a broad spectrum (UVA and UVB protection) sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher to all areas of exposed skin, 20minutes before working in the sun. Reapply it as directed by the manufacturer"s instructions (usually every two hours) or more often if you are perspiring heavily. Remember your lips and apply a broad spectrum, SPF 30 lip balm.

Sunscreens should be used in addition to, not instead of, working in shade and wearing suitable clothing, hats, and sunglasses. Sunscreens are not intended to extend the exposure time to sunlight, but rather to reduce the effects of sunlight when you have to be in the sun.

Examine your skin regularly for any unusual changes. The danger signs include any wound, sore, or patch of skin that won"t heal or constantly scales. Also examine for any growing lump, particularly if brown or bluish in colour. Get medical care for anything that looks suspicious rather than wait until the problem becomes untreatable.

*** Source: Health and Safety Report, (volume 8, issue 4), Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), 2010. Reproduced with the permission of CCOHS, 2010.

  1. Keep yourself informed on union business, policies and activities. Know your union contract and where to find answers when you need them.
  2. Attend union meetings, educationals and other union affairs. At the same time, encourage and take other members to these events.
  3. Personally welcome new union members. Have them sign membership cards, and talk up the union.
  4. Be a leader and role model. Do not allow your personal likes and dislikes prejudice your actions when dealing with members.
  5. Keep accurate records, and meet deadlines when filing grievances. Treat each grievance as if it were your own.
  6. Be politically active. Encourage members to get involved in political elections; attend town hall meetings, and ask social justice/ labour friendly questions. Encourage them to vote for labour-friendly parties.
  7. Show your union pride. Wear union buttons and clothing, and encourage your brothers and sisters to do the same.
  8. You are management’s equal. When dealing with local issues, you are your members’ advocate and can question and request information from management.
  9. Do not shy away from anti-union animosity. Fight it head on.

Killer Coke…still deadly?

Lisa Bicum, In Solidarity

If you are reading this publication, chances are good that you have a sound social conscience. If you are like hundreds of your OPSEU brothers and sisters, you try to keep up with news of which employers offer the worst in working conditions and workers’ rights. A few years ago, many of us were made aware of the “Killer Coke” campaign which asked us to refrain from consuming Coca-Cola products in support of improving deplorable human rights violations against South American Coke workers (bottlers). Each year at convention, and through other media releases, we get word of underhanded employers and corporations whose products we need to refuse to purchase. OPSEU even goes as far as to launch formal boycotts against corporations. However, in the back of our minds is the nagging question, “How do I know whom or what we are still boycotting?” Good question.

Don Ford, OPSEU communications officer, notes that we take our direction from NUPGE (our big national sibling), the Ontario Federation of Labour and the Canadian Labour Congress. According to the NUPGE website, as of November 1, 2010 OPSEU, NUPGE, and the CLC remain diligent in boycotting or signing petitions against the following corporations:

Sklar Peppler (Alan White furniture/ AW Manufacturing Inc.) for closing the company’s Canadian plant, moving its manufacturing to Mississippi, and continuing to sell their product under the Canadian brand name.

Rol-Land Farms, Inc. (Essex Kent Mushroom, Essex Continental Distributors Inc. and/or Unionville Farms) for failing to recognize the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) as their workers’ bargaining agent even though 70 per cent of the workers signed union cards in 2003. These workers face long hours, health and safety concerns, no grievance procedures, harassment, unfair wages, and discrimination.

Philips Electronics Products for transferring production from Quebec to Brazil thus potentially eliminating 125 Steelworkers’ jobs

Motts (Clamato) for using Canada’s name in marketing a non-Canadian product. This American company is guilty of forcing wage and pension cuts on 300 workers in their Williamson, NY plant.

Museum of Civilization for not providing workers with a fair collective agreement

So, in the end, is Coke still “deadly”? Although Coca-Cola doesn’t currently show up on NUPGE’s website as a corporation to boycott, it doesn’t take much of a search to find that Coke’s employment and human rights practices remain unforgivable. Also, OPSEU continues to take a stand by refusing to serve Coke products at any of its functions. As for other boycotts and their currency, it’s easy to keep track of whose products we should refuse. Check out the “Supporting the Struggle” tab in the lower right hand column of the NUPGE home page (www.nupge.ca) for information on current strikes, boycotts, community actions, and citizen campaigns across the country.

Stewards and Workplace Rage

Steward Update

The workplace can be a violent place, and angry and frustrated workers are providing a whole new set of problems for a union steward.

In August 2010, JetBlue flight attendant Steve Slater became an instant working-class folk hero when he grabbed two beers, cursed out an offensive passenger, and took the plane’s emergency exit slide into instant fame. The phrase “pull a Slater” jumped into popular usage, generating pages of “last straw” stories about bad working conditions.

If Slater was comedy, Connecticut beer warehouse worker Omar Thornton was tragedy. Thornton was called to a disciplinary hearing for allegedly stealing beer. He killed eight people, including his local union president, and then committed suicide.

The cases are hugely different, of course, but for a union steward, they can serve as a reminder that you can never predict when the next episode of workplace rage will take place.

Workplace violence, of course, is nothing new and more often than not it starts with the boss. It has always been a basic function of the union to defend workers against management violence—by defending safety conditions, for example, or blocking harassment—but sometimes the emotions of our co-workers become a potential threat as well.

Our terrible economy and the relentless pressures working people are facing are increasing stress that can lead to destructive actions by workers.

What can a steward do?  
First of all, check your own stress levels. The pressures that are driving some of your co-workers over the edge can affect you as well. Plus, you have a whole group of people to worry about. Be alert to signs of your own anger. Some of the remedies for workplace violence may involve challenging your own members and friends about their behaviour—obviously, a stressful activity.

Live by the steward’s slogan: Prevention and Proactivity. In the Thornton episode, the support for the company’s discharge action was videotapes of Thornton allegedly stealing cases of beer. The union can bargain over an employer’s use of video cameras and warn its members about surveillance.

More important, in Thornton’s case there appear to have been serious race issues and incidents at the warehouse, making a bad situation worse. “This all could have been avoided.” Thornton’s uncle Will Holliday told CBS News. “He went to the union a couple of times with issues concerning what was going on, and it was not dealt with appropriately.” Not only did Thornton use his cell phone to document and transmit racist conversations among some of his co-workers, but he felt that his rights under the contract were being abused by his work assignments. It’s essential that unions enforce the contract impartially for every member and make sure that workers know the limits of its protection.

Clearly, if workers are harassing their co-workers, by hanging nooses or by sexual harassment, a steward needs to step up and speak both to the offending members and to management, which is legally responsible for providing “a safe and health workplace.” There is no place for a bashful steward if basic relations among co-workers are not maintained. After all, a steward would not—or should not—allow a supervisor to harass a member in any way, so the same standards must be maintained among our co-workers.

Does your employer have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)? If so, a steward should know the procedures and thoughtfully encourage troubled co-workers to make use of it. Often a steward is reluctant to “rat out” a co-worker about troublesome behavior, but the protection of all workers is the steward’s first responsibility. A worker who has personal problems that seem to be deeply unsettling could be the next violent offender.

Listen carefully to casual conversations. Do any of your co-workers repeatedly muse about ways to bully or torture a co-worker? While it might seem like workplace horseplay, the joking threats might be a reflection of a more serious problem.

Do any of your co-workers have serious problems off the job—romantic or financial, for example—that might provoke them to resort to violence? Once again, if you have an EAP program, urge your co-worker to set up an appointment. Be thoughtful in your approach.

Demand that management take immediate action. Should a steward recommend that at co-worker be suspended? This is obviously an ethical dilemma that will raise the blood pressure of any steward, but once again, you’re responsible for the safety of all members and may need to act.

Do any of your co-workers have weapons, either in the workplace or in their nearby vehicles? While there may be some constitutional issues about banning weapons from all work premises (including parking lots), and it’s a cultural issue among hunters, having weapons nearby can be a problem.

Most important, the solution to a bad boss, or to bad working conditions, is not to quit as Slater did or to start shooting. The whole point of unionism is an organized effort by workers to make conditions on the job better and safer. While many in the non-union blogosphere cheered for flight attendant Steve Slater and wished they had the same nerve to quit a lousy job, unionism tries to make a lousy job better so that workers are not faced with the no-win choice: submit to a bad job and a bad boss, or quit.  

*** This article is reprinted courtesy of Union Communications Services Inc., 1633 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20009. To order a subscription, you can call 1-800-321-2545. By agreement between In Solidarity and Union Communications Services, this material may not be reproduced. ***

Don’t let the Bed Bugs Bite

By Felicia Fahey, In Solidarity Committee

The bed bug epidemic has hit Toronto, and residents and members alike are becoming more and more afraid to come to the big city. Fear is being perpetuated by the media and online blogging, adding to the hype. We at In Solidarity thought we would do what we could to get some facts/myths surrounding the little critters.

Bed bugs have been around since ancient Greece. Around World War II they became almost obsolete when the invention and use of pesticides became more popular. In the United States in 1996, a law banning some pesticides was passed, and the debate over the link between that and the re-emergence of bed bugs began.

Bed bugs are insects that are about the size of an apple seed and feed on human or animal blood. They are most active at night and tend to hide during the day. They reproduce very quickly and can live without a feeding for up to six months. Bed bugs do not jump but are often carried from one location to another; they are often described as, “hitchhikers.”

If you think you have bed bugs, or for information on reported cases, call your local health unit or the unit of the town you will be visiting.

Myth: Bed bugs are too small to see.

Fact: Although they may be difficult to find because they hide well, they are big enough to be seen with the naked eye.

Myth: Bed bugs are only found in shelters; only poor people or dirty people get them.

Fact: Bed bugs can be found in hotels, motels, dormitories, apartments, condos, private homes, and even in some public places such as businesses and offices. Anyone can get bed bugs.

Myth: Walking into a room that has bed bugs means you will get bed bugs.

Fact: Bed bugs do not jump. They spend 90% of their time hiding and are usually active at night. Bed bugs avoid light and do not like to be disturbed.

Myth: Bed bugs cause disease.

Fact: There is no evidence that shows bed bugs transmit disease. Bed bug bites, however, can cause allergic reaction in some people similar to a mosquito bite. Frequent scratching of the bite marks or picking the scabs can cause infections. Also, people with severe and/or repeated infestations can feel anxious, worried or ashamed.

Myth: Chemicals/pesticides will kill bed bugs.

Fact: Pesticide application alone will not kill bed bugs at all stages. Successful treatment depends on an Integrated Pest Management approach to bed bug control which involves vacuuming and steaming, laundering belongings, sealing areas and gaps where bed bugs can hide. Do not use over the counter pest control products or home remedies such as kerosene.

The long and the short of it is this: yes bed bugs are in Toronto, but they are everywhere. The most important thing is to keep clutter at a minimum so they have fewer places to hide. Keep sheets and linens clean, practice hygiene, and take a look around the hotels you are staying at. If you are still worried, call the hotel prior to your arrival, and ask for any reports and for the date of their last inspection.

Retiring? Your activism doesn’t have to end

Laurie Sabourin, In Solidarity

If you are one of the thousands of OPSEU members retiring over the next few years, you will still have the opportunity to stay involved in union activities. Just because your career ends, doesn’t mean your involvement with your union must.

In 1981 three retired members asked the Union’s Executive Board to create a Retired Members Division. Now the division is thousands strong and growing. This involvement allows you to follow and participate in OPSEU.

There are seven Regional Executive Committees who hold regular meetings in your region. The chairs of those committees form the Retired Members Division Executive Committee. The executive produces a quarterly publication, Autumn View, with articles on benefits, finances and current issues for retirees. They monitor policy changes affecting their members and assists in educationals to prepare OPSEU members for retirement.

As a member of this division, you will

  • Receive regular information on OPSEU issues, campaigns and events;
  • Meet regularly to discuss issues concerns with fellow retirees;
  • Propose and discuss Resolutions and Constitutional Amendments to be brought to Convention;
  • Be eligible to become a delegate to Area Councils, either as a delegate from your old local or a delegate from Retirees Division;
  • Be eligible to become a delegate to District Labour Councils if elected by your local;
  • Be eligible to hold executive positions in both Area Councils or District Labour Councils.

Membership in the division is open to all OPSEU members and staff who retire from their workplace directly to a pension earned in their workplace or by retiring from a bargaining unit without a pension plan.

You can become and remain a Retired Member by paying $10 for a lifetime membership. Some locals pay for their retired members to become lifetime members.

Application forms are available from OPSEU at www.opseu.org/retirees/index.htm, your Regional Retiree Chairperson, your Regional OPSEU Office, or OPSEU Head Office in Toronto at 1-800-268-7376.

Identity self-defense

Tim King, In Solidarity

This isn’t about physically fighting to protect your identity, nor is it sparring with the government – it comes down to your most important document you can own…your Birth Certificate.

Roll your eyes, but it’s true. Of any document you own, this is the ONE document that is needed in order to apply and obtain any other identification or document. You need it in almost every aspect of your life – from health care, to licenses to retirement. Since it is that important, care and caution needs to be taken to that one single piece of paper.

Use this analogy: if you have a thousand dollars, would you freely count it in public? Would you carry it in your wallet or purse “just-in-case?” No! You will probably leave it safely at home or in a financial institution and would take it out only when needed.

How about leaving your PIN numbers written on a paper in your wallet for debit or chip cards? Of course you don’t. So why not protect the document that could take a lot more from you than just money—your identity!

In general, we are walking pack-rats carrying our lives with us.

We keep piles of receipts, photos, library cards, SIN cards, expired grocery rewards cards, faded coupons, membership club cards, phone numbers and perhaps a recipe or two.
We want things to be easy, on hand and on demand. Whenever you need something, you have it at a moment’s notice. The problem is that what is easy for you is also easy for a thief. He or she could easily get to know who you are, where you go to the gym, your habits, where you live, your banking patterns, credit cards, maybe school loans, who your family is, etc. The same goes if you carry your spouse and children’s information with you.

Since it is that easy to map someone’s life, we must take simple precautions to not let our personal information be easily accessible.

Around the world, birth certificates issued in Ontario and other Canadian provinces are the most sought after. The government works hard to protect the identity of Ontarians. It isn’t hard to protect ourselves. For tips on the protection of your identity, please see the Digital Death Wills and Social Networking articles in past In Solidarity editions.

Mission: Take Back Canada!


OPERATION MAPLE is an online social media project (with a special brand of humour) that points out that the people we elect do not always have Canadians’ best interests at heart.
Every week, Operation Maple posts creative funny, informative videos that educate and entertain. Short, sharp webisodes are accompanied by articles and helpful links.
You can join Operation Maple’s Facebook fan page, follow it on Twitter or visit their YouTube profile to watch and share funny, irreverent takes on Canadian politics and business.

Unionization in Canada has risen up to 4.2 million


Statistics Canada says more than 4.2 million workers belonged to a union in Canada during the first half of 2010, up 64,000 from the same period last year.

Union membership has risen at a slightly faster pace than total employment. As a result, the nation’s unionization rate edged up from 29.5 per cent in 2009 to 29.6 per cent in 2010.

The gap in unionization rates between men and women widened slightly in 2010. Women experienced disproportionately more gains in unionized jobs. Consequently, their unionization rate inched up to 30.9 per cent, while the rate for men remained constant at 28.2 per cent.

Just more than 2.2 million women belonged to a union in 2010, compared with just under 2.0 million men.

The unionization rate for permanent workers increased to 30.0 per cent between 2009 and 2010 while it decreased to 27.3 per cent for those in non-permanent jobs. The rate rose in larger firms (100 workers or more), declined among those with 20 to 99 workers and remained constant for firms with fewer than 20 workers.

The provincial picture was mixed.

Unionization rates fell in Nova Scotia, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Alberta. The largest gain in rates occurred in B.C. while the rate was highest in Newfoundland and Labrador (37.9 per cent

Among industries, rates were highest in public administration (68.5 per cent) and education (67.0 per cent). Notable declines occurred in agriculture, health care and social assistance and education. Notable increases occurred in transportation and warehousing and public administration.

An average 288,000 workers were not union members but were covered by a collective agreement in the first half of 2010, down from last year’s total of 300,000.

In 2009, there were 157 strikes or lockouts that involved a loss in working time of at least 10 person-days. This was the second lowest number on record. At the same time, 67,000 workers were involved in these strikes or lockouts and just under 2.2 million person-days in working time were lost—the highest number of days lost since 2005.

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