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In Solidarity – The newsletter for OPSEU Stewards and Activists, Volume 18, Number 3, Spring 2012

In Solidarity Spring 2012
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Drummond Report: How to manufacture a crisis

Diablogue, OPSEU

Don Drummond certainly knows how to manufacture a crisis.

For several years now he has been telling us that public health care spending is out of control, and that if left unchecked, it would soon consume 70 per cent of the provincial budget. Since those projections, spending on health care has actually gone down as a share of provincial program spending, from 46 per cent to 42 per cent.

Oddly, despite a trend line going in the opposite direction, Drummond continues to maintain this forecast.

Now, as Commissioner for Public Service Reform, he is telling us that if we don’t enter into a period of extreme austerity, we will soon be the Greece of Canada.

Don’t break out the tzatziki sauce yet.

It’s true we have a deficit, but it’s likely not as much as Drummond and Finance Minister Dwight Duncan say it is.

Why do we believe this? Both Drummond and Duncan have a history of pessimistic forecasts that always come rosy on budget day. This is not magic or the result of good management – its public manipulation of the facts.

The actual deficit in 2010-11 came in 43 per cent below what Duncan had forecast a year earlier. That’s a big difference. If their forecasting is anywhere near this bad, the real deficit is likely to be somewhere below $12 billion this year.

This means Drummond’s starting point is wrong.

Second, economist Hugh MacKenzie says Drummond is forecasting a much higher interest rate on Ontario’s debt – in fact Drummond expects interest rates to almost double. What is the justification for this, especially when the U.S. has already committed to keeping interest rates low until at least the end of 2014?

With historic low interest rates, Ontario is paying no more to service its debt now than it was a decade ago. As debt bonds mature, new bonds will be issued at a much lower rate of interest, driving debt service charges even further down.

Start off with the wrong assumption, estimate higher than reasonable interest rates, then let compounding do the rest and, voila, you have built a crisis.

Drummond also like to breed fear by comparing apples to oranges, reflecting “real” growth rate projections against “nominal” government expenditures. What does this mean?

Nominal is the actual dollar value. This figure always appears higher than “real” growth projections because real growth subtracts the rate of inflation.

For example, Don Drummond can talk about a 3.2 per cent increase in program costs (nominal) while the economy grows by only 2 per cent (real) to illustrate how unsustainable our current situation is. This is what he has been doing in the media for the last few weeks.

However, if inflation is running at 2.5 per cent – as was reported this morning – and real growth is 2 per cent, that means the nominal increase in the economy is 4.5 per cent. Things look very different under that scenario. Government revenues never grow less than the nominal growth in the economy.

In fact, it’s not uncommon for government revenues to rise slightly above the nominal rate of growth.

Now here’s the real challenge: economic growth comes from two sources – the private sector and the public sector. For every dollar the public sector spends, it usually creates a ripple effect in the economy of about $1.50. If the public sector sheds jobs too quickly, the private sector has to make up for it or run the risk of recession. This is called fiscal drag. If Drummond’s recommendations to limit spending are accepted, according to economist Jim Stanford, this could reduce economic growth from between 1.6 per cent to 2.8 per cent over the next four years. That’s a huge obstacle for the private sector to overcome.

If we go into recession, government revenues fall further, creating the need for another cycle of cuts. At that point we can break out the tzatziki.

How much of all this is self-inflicted?

While the government talks about all of us having to make sacrifices, they have only hinted at suspending the last phase of their corporate tax cuts, even though our rates are already more than competitive.

Are you really making a sacrifice by not helping yourself to another cookie from the jar?

A real sacrifice might involve asking the corporate sector to put back the cookies they got in the last two years, raising another $2.4 billion in taxes. That would go a long way to offset the deficit.

In all, the Harris-McGuinty tax cuts add up to $16 billion less in revenue for the Ontario government every year.

$16 billion – hey isn’t that what Drummond and Duncan say is the present deficit?

Clearly there are better options. As one observer astutely put it, the Drummond report was written by the 1 per cent for the 1 per cent.

The rest of us need to engage now if we don’t want to see our province vandalized for the sake of the few.

Area Councils: Important to us

Felicia Fahey, In Solidarity

In our union, the ability to network and communicate with one another is vitally important. As activists, we are lucky to have tools available to us to help make this even easier. OPSEU’S Local Area Councils are among these tools. These councils provide a place for local Presidents and delegates to get together and push the labour movement’s ideas and action plans forward.

Local councils form in a catchment area within each region and consist of locals within that area. Once the council is formed, by-laws are set up and officers are elected, much the same as within your local. Meetings and the style of meetings vary from council to council based on members’ needs. Councils meet monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly. This is all decided by the members of the council.

Area councils play an important role within OPSEU and are emerging all over the province. They make it easier for delegates to get to know one another in their own region and in the different sectors of OPSEU. Within us, OPSEU members have amazing resources. We are the “public services people” of Ontario. We hold the knowledge and expertise to help each other.

Area councils provide an opportunity to brainstorm with other activists, and to let other locals know of ongoing campaigns, and charity and community events within the area. This includes Labour Day activities, strikes and picket lines that need support, political action, fundraisers, all-candidates debates, and many other union activities.

Just before convention, area councils are extremely busy writing and submitting resolutions and constitutional amendments on behalf of each area. Many of those submissions make it to the convention floor.

OPSEU supports and encourages participation in these valuable councils by offering a 90-per-cent rebate to locals that affiliate with their Local Area Council. Every January, dues from locals are collected. To submit your receipt for the rebate, download the reimbursement form from the member service section of opseu.org. It is a win-win for locals and area councils. Local delegates get to meet other activists and stay in touch and involved in important matters. And your local gets back most of the money just for getting involved.

If your area does not have an active area council, speak to your staff representative or executive board member about getting help to set one up. The goal is to have an active area council in all areas of the province. If you have one in your vicinity, think about affiliating and try to get out to a meeting to see what it’s all about. You won’t regret it. Now let’s get out there and start mobilizing!

Keep your eyes on the @#&%* road!

Lisa Bicum, In Solidarity

I never thought I’d say this, but I almost wish that people would go back to talking on the phone while driving. Preposterous, you say? My daily drive isn’t what many of you in major centers would drive in a day. My drive consists of 30 km of wide open, flat, two-lane highway with a couple of bends, a couple of stop signs and traffic lights, and a few cows to look at. However, my safety concerns are the same as those of all of us—getting smucked by someone who is texting and driving. If people were to talk on the phone, at least I might be able to see their eyes when they pass me.

In the past few months during my rural daily commute, I’ve conducted an informal survey to see how many people have their eyes on the road while driving. Sadly, the results weren’t favourable. In the past, we worried about people eating, putting on makeup, reading a paper, adjusting the radio, or talking on the phone. Heck, those were bad enough. Now, I think things are spiralling toward an all-time dangerous low.

We all know we shouldn’t text while driving, but I don’t think any of us really think we could cause any harm. But, there is a growing body of statistical information that is proving we can.

The 2006 Liberty Mutual Insurance Group survey of more than 900 US teens found that 37 per cent of students found texting to be “very” or “extremely” distracting. A study by AAA found that 46 per cent of teens admitted to being distracted behind the wheel because of texting.

A 2009 experiment in Car and Driver magazine showed that texting while driving had a greater impact on safety than driving drunk. While legally drunk, the subject’s stopping distance at 70 mph increased by four feet. By contrast, reading an e-mail added 36 feet, and sending a text added 70 feet.

A study at the University of Utah found a six-fold increase in distraction-related accidents when texting.

A July 2010 Fairleigh Dickinson University Public Mind poll found 25 per cent of New Jersey residents of voting age admitted to sending a text while driving – up from 15 per cent in 2008. Over 35 per cent of New Jersey drivers aged 30 to 45 and 17 per cent of drivers over 45 admitted to having sent text messages while driving, an increase of 5 to 10 per cent from 2008.

What’s going on in Canada? All provinces have banned talking on hand-held phones and texting while driving. The Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon have yet to enact bans. Many U.S. states have banned hand-held devices, and many other states are getting there.

In 2010, Alberta introduced Bill 16, Alberta’s first distracted driving legislation. While the bill is not yet law, the government and several media outlets have publicly discussed what will and won’t be allowed under the law.

We know the law. The internet is littered with videos and pleas of families of those killed or suspected to have been killed by drivers who were distracted or texting. Numerous organizations are urging people to pledge not to drive while distracted or texting. Conversely, there are those who think governing bodies should not have a say in what we do when we drive – much the same as the arguments against legislating lifejackets or seatbelts. Inventors propose gadgetry to keep drunk drivers from starting cars. I think it’s time we think seriously about this. If I look at the content of my texts or phone calls, they’re all pretty mundane. No message is so urgent that it can’t wait until I’m someplace safe. Please think about your actions and drive responsibly. When you really think about it, it’s a pretty easy thing to do.

Child Labour – a three part series

The price of gold

Lisa Bicum, In Solidarity

As I write this, I am assaulted by glitzy decorations, annoying radio jingles, the consumer onslaught of crappy Christmas ‘must-haves’ and I fight my hardest to not get caught up in the hysteria that is the Christmas season. However, I do have fond memories of Christmas when I was a child, and I certainly enjoy watching my children partake in seasonal recitals and activities. Yet, it’s all a bit too much when we factor in all of those who, here and abroad, live in deplorable conditions. In this season when we focus so much on kids, I thought it fitting that we look at challenges for children across the world. Perhaps we will make the move to support human rights groups. Perhaps becoming aware is the first step.

A report was posted December 6, 2011 to the website Human Rights Watch (www.hrw.org) outlining the horrific conditions of children working in the toxic conditions of gold mines in Mali.

Independent, informally-organized mines use children as young as six to carry loads heavier than their own weight, dig shafts, climb into unstable shafts, and touch and inhale mercury, one of the most toxic substances on earth. Upwards of 20,000 children work in these unregulated mines that often use low-tech methods to extract the gold.

Not only are these children subjected to back-breaking work,  but it can be argued that the bigger danger for them is exposure to the mercury used to separate the gold from the ore. Mercury attacks the central nervous system, and mercury poisoning results in a range of neurological conditions, including tremors, coordination and concentration problems, impaired vision, headaches, and memory loss. Sadly, mercury’s toxic effects are not immediately noticeable, but develop over time. It’s unsettling that children are exposed to so much mercury so early in their lives.

Mercury toxicity isn’t the only hazard of working in these gold mines. When interviewed, child miners said that they suffered from back, head, neck, arm, and joint pain, coughing, and respiratory ailments.

Why are these kids not living what we consider a ‘normal’ childhoods? Most of them work with their parents to supplement the little income adult miners get from selling their gold to local traders. Children without parents migrate to the mines by themselves and end up being exploited and abused by relatives or strangers who take their pay. Some girls are sexually abused or work in the sex trade to survive. These mines draw children from many parts of Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, and other neighbouring countries.

Where is the government in all of this? In June 2011, Mali’s government adopted a National Action Plan for the Elimination of Child Labour. However, the plan has not been put into action. There are no regular labour inspections in artisanal mines, and a ban on hazardous child labour (working with mercury) has not been enforced. The government has also largely failed to make education accessible and available for child labourers in mines. Schools are often far away, charge fees, and do not encourage attendance for children who have migrated from elsewhere. Oddly enough, government officials often benefit from the sale of gold.

In addition, one expert noted that countries purchasing this low-tech, cheap gold (Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, and Dubai) need to take responsibility by putting in place measures to ensure their gold has not been mined by children. The purchasers need to step up and work with local governments and international agencies to eliminate child labour.

As I glance over at my well-fed, well-educated children, I feel fortunate; yet, I have to admit I feel a bit ashamed. I’m not a big gold purchaser, but this information makes me want to continue to be aware of the origin of products purchased by my family. Also, I’ll make sure to follow any updates on Human Rights Watch (www.hrw.org). 

Shannen’s Dream

The first voice from Attawapiskat

Nancy Hart-Day, In Solidarity

We’ve heard a lot in the media these past few months about the Northern Ontario reserve, Attawapiskat.

James Anaya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, wrote in a statement published on the UN website and quoted in the Globe and Mail on Dec 20, 2011: “The social and economic situation of the Attawapiskat seems to represent the condition of many First Nation communities living on reserves throughout Canada, which is allegedly akin to Third World conditions.” Anaya noted that many residents in the community of 1,800 live in unheated shacks or trailers with no running water. He suggested that Attawapiskat isn’t the only reserve community in crisis. First-nations leaders asked the UN to monitor Canada’s actions on the remote reserve in December. In his statement, Mr. Anaya noted that aboriginal communities face higher rates of poverty, and poorer health, education and employment outcomes than non-aboriginals in Canada.

It was Shannen Noella Jane Koostachin, a grade eight student from Attawapiskat First Nation, who,  in 2008 brought the first voice from the Attawapiskat Reserve. She described the conditions of her people. She wrote a letter to the Minister of Indian Affairs, Chuck Strahl, describing the conditions she and her classmates had to endure just to get an education (See letter at www.shannensdream.ca). Shannen and her classmates decided to take action against broken promises for a new school.

You will learn from the website how Shannen knew just how hard it was to learn in an under-resourced. reserve school The only elementary school for the 400 children in Attawapiskat was closed when thousands of gallons of diesel fuel contaminated the ground under the school. The federal government put portable trailers on the playground of the contaminated school as a “temporary school” until a new one could be built. Nine years later, there was still no sign of a new school and still no running water due to contaminants in the ground.

Shannen further describes how the portables became more run-down over time. The heat would often go off, the children would have to walk outside in the cold to go from one portable to another, and the doors were warped. The children of Attawapiskat launched the Attawapiskat School Campaign to reach out to non-Aboriginal children across Canada to write to the federal government and demand a new school for Attawapiskat.

You will learn from the website how the children used the money saved for their graduation trip to Niagara Falls, and chose three students to take the voice of the children of Attawapiskat to Ottawa, and to speak to the Minister of Indian Affairs and demand a new school. Shannen led the Attawapiskat School Campaign, a movement for “safe and comfy” schools and quality, culturally-based education for first-nations children.

Shannen Koostachin died in an automobile accident May 31, 2010. With the support of her loving family, friends and community, Shannen’s Dream is now the name of the campaign named in her memory to make sure all first-nations children across Canada have “safe and comfy schools” and receive a good quality education that makes them proud of who they are.

Shannen was – and still is – the first voice of Attawapiskat. Who knew her voice would describe not only the school she attended but her community as a whole?

Canada’s 13th Prime Minister John Diefenbaker said it best:

“We must vigilantly stand on guard within our own borders for human rights and fundamental freedoms which are our proud heritage. . .We cannot take for granted the continuance and maintenance of those rights and freedoms.”

Our proud heritage of our country can no longer be taken for granted when the people of the First Nations are living in third world conditions and the voices of our children are not being heard.

We cannot let the voices of our children go silent. Let’s keep Shannen’s Dream alive, not only for the schools, but for the community as well. Please continue to support Shannen’s dream and the community of Attawapiskat.  

Bob Dematteo: A leader in Health and Safety

Terri Aversa, Health and Safety

Imagine your first task upon being hired is to get thousands of OPSEU members covered by health and safety legislation. That’s what happened to Bob Dematteo when he joined the OPSEU staff as a research officer in 1976.

Because of his background, he was perfect to lead the huge struggle to convince the authorities that OPSEU members suffered more than just paper cuts.  He had been a CAAT academic at Humber College teaching labour economics and social studies. And he was chief steward in the local union.

DeMatteo and staff representative Peter Slee built a massive campaign to fight and lobby for health and safety coverage for unprotected OPSEU members.   The Crown was not bound by Bill 70, the new health and safety legislation. After conducting a massive survey of the hazards OPSEU members faced, DeMatteo and Slee led a local community campaign, activating OPSEU members to lobby all sectors, local and provincial politicians, local community leaders, the media, and even industrial unions. The message was that OPSEU members faced serious health and safety hazards and they demanded inclusion in any health and safety legislation.

The campaign spawned OPSEU’s first health and safety training program. Kicked off in Port Elgin in August 1976, OPSEU began to train OPSEU health and safety activists.  Every weekend for over a year, 100 activists went through training. DeMatteo maintained that these programs gave OPSEU members a leading edge in dealing with employers.

He also exposed overcrowding conditions in Ontario’s prisons in “Crisis Behind Bars.” The expose, later republished by the Criminal Lawyers Association, led to a major overhaul of the prison system. Other work followed in institutional settings. Bob helped Columbia University’s Dr. Jeanne Stellman with a major stress study of all institutional workers – in prisons, psychiatric hospitals, and developmental service organizations. The work was almost stopped when the government opposed the study. After OPSEU members organized, participated, and mobilized efforts to keep the study going, the work continued, leading to improvements

DeMatteo fought the process of deinstitutionalization. Conducting major investigations of conditions in deinstitutionalized settings, he published his findings in a booklet, “Ontario’s Mental Health Care Breakdown.” The booklet led to a province-wide investigative tour of conditions of the mentally ill and the book,  Madness by John Marshall.

DeMatteo’s commitment to winning health and safety protections for OPSEU workers had no limits. After hearing about especially disturbing situations, he’s been known to slam down the phone and rush right over to the local to see what he could do to help. Having him on your side for health and safety issues usually meant eventual acquiescence by the other side. His mixture of academic and activist qualities meant that he produced the very best work and strategies to accomplish any health and safety objective with any audience.

In the 1980s, Bob joined with OPSEU’s Ministry of Labour inspectors to draw attention to weaknesses in health and safety enforcement. Inspectors were being politically and systematically thwarted from doing their work. Together with DeMatteo, they created a brief, which the inspectors presented to the Minister of Labour with the hope of strengthening health and safety enforcement. The brief made newspaper headlines for weeks. The government finally agreed to conduct an inquiry that led to a major increase in numbers of inspectors, better training, and the hiring of some inspectors from the labour movement.

Bob is famous worldwide for his work in the 1980s and 1990s in computerization and technological change. Under the Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act, the union had no right to bargain or even discuss technological change. The government wouldn’t even consider health and safety proposals related to new technology. How did DeMatteo respond? He began a major health and safety initiative about the health impact of video display terminals (VDTs). He conducted primary research on the impact of on clerical workers and wrote a historic book, Terminal Shock.  More than 10,000 copies sold, drawing attention around the world and laying the groundwork for getting health and safety protections for VDT operators within OPSEU and across Canada. It spawned a coalition with other unions that won international recognition as a major information and resource centre. Then came groundbreaking legal cases about the right to be reassigned while pregnant and to refuse work on VDTs.  Regulatory changes and new collective agreement language followed, and ultimately, so did the right to bargain technological change that had a health and safety impact.

DeMatteo’s offered guidance and advice on the shutdown of the Newmarket courthouse due to mould and the struggle at the Kingston OHIP building that had been built on a coal tar site. 

Whatever the cause, Bob was always there to help workers find their way forward. Whether it was to “lay information”  to a justice of the peace to try to have employers prosecuted, or to move the goalposts into new health and safety territory, or just to listen, DeMatteo provided the very best of service, not just to OPSEU members, but workers everywhere.

He is always quick to remind us that it takes team effort to make change. He credits many for sharing their skills to help in the fight – Peter Slee for his belief in empowering workers and Katie FitzRandolph from OPSEU Communications for, as Bob says, making his clumsy writing be understood by the readers.

After 26 years, DeMatteo retired from OPSEU, but  is still active. He is a board member at the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW). He researches, writes articles, and uses his expertise to fight for a health and safety system that protects workers. Indeed, Bob DeMatteo’s passion and commitment to improving workers health and safety has followed him into retirement. And the activists he trained and mentored continue along where Bob still treads.

What I learned from Occupy Toronto

Don Ford, OPSEU Communications

The protesters who occupied St. James Park this past fall gained a lot of media attention. At first, many reports discussed the growing gap between the wealthy 1 per cent and the rest of society. Soon, however, most of the media attention turned negative. Daily reports, editorials, letters to the editor, blogs and websites condemned the occupiers as lawless invaders, accusing them from everything from trespassing to anarchy.

In partnership with other unions, OPSEU supported the occupation with resources and money. Predictably, this caused a backlash among some of our members. Calls and e-mails arrived daily at Head Office from members who were furious that their union was using their dues money to support a bunch of “non-union communists” who were doing nothing but creating “a public nuisance” (that was the general consensus).

The Occupy protest was on my radar, but I wasn’t immersed in the day-to-day goings-on down at the site. Other OPSEU staff, Board members and activists were quite involved. Many of them visited the protesters daily. OPSEU produced web updates, communications pieces, and of course, helped pay for and construct the now infamous “yurts,” the large tents structures from Mongolia that became an integral part of the demonstration.

So I never really took the time to learn a lot about the Toronto protest. I certainly agreed with the reasons behind the protests in Toronto, on Wall Street, and in other cities around the world. The message was clear: 99 per cent of the population was fed up with 1 per cent controlling the world’s wealth. Big corporations are really running everything now, earning millions and billions while working people struggle to make ends meet. This agenda is one OPSEU fights daily while we try to improve the working lives of our members.

About a week or so before the occupation ended, I had an opportunity to spend time at St. James Park. My first impression wasn’t that positive. Tents, mud, discarded signs, makeshift shelters, lines of port-a-potties, homeless people obviously suffering from different types of mental illness…they all blended together into a chaotic blight.

That impression immediately changed when I met two of the protest organizers. Here were a young woman and man who were dishevelled, dirt-streaked and obviously tired. Then they spoke. They were quiet, intelligent and educated. They had a spark in their eyes that radiated their passion for their cause. It was a determination that I usually see only in our most seasoned activists.

Another admission: My opinion of young people had become fairly low. I’ve apparently turned into the curmudgeon I SWORE I’d never become. When I was young, I made fun of people like that. Twenty-five years later, my general impression of young people is that they are only interested in texting, Facebook, and getting whatever they could for themselves (and to hell with everyone else). I’ve since learned that similar disparaging sentiments were etched into the walls of the Pyramids, but I digress.

But back to the park. Here was a group of young people who were obviously not there for personal gain. They were there to stand up for their beliefs. They were there, at a great level of personal sacrifice and discomfort, to bring a message to the public.

Their level of organization would make the military proud. In the three yurts, they had set up a medical station, a library and a computer/media/communications centre. Designated volunteers picked up trash, organized food deliveries and made banners and signs. Other volunteers facilitated daily seminars in the park on legal issues, economics and social issues. What looked like chaos from the outside was actually a functioning society all on its own.

What impressed me the most was their daily meetings or “General Assemblies” as they called them. There were rules. People had to be on a speakers’ list. A simple set of hand signals were in place for the crowd to express their approval or disapproval with issues being raised. All voices were heard, and a sense of order and respect prevailed. Every decision was made by consensus. And somehow, it actually worked.

Suddenly, I had a new appreciation for these young people. I remember thinking at the time that there just may be hope for our younger generation after all.

Of course, none of this was reported in the media. Shocking, I know. The mainstream news outlets, especially in Toronto, seemed interested in reporting only on the mess, the noise and the “loss of enjoyment” of the park by surrounding residents – and, of course, the futility of what these young people were trying to accomplish.

So…it begs the question: Why did OPSEU support this group?

Now, having witnessed the protest first-hand, I can more easily answer this question. These young people are our future. Twenty or thirty years from now, when many of us are retired or getting close to it, these young people will be the decision-makers. Many of them will not be thinking only of themselves, but wanting to make changes for the benefit of working people everywhere. In other words, they are our union activists of the future.

I believe OPSEU’s support of Occupy Toronto responded not only to an immediate need, but to an investment in the future. These young people may find themselves in a union, or wanting to join one, and for them their experience with OPSEU will only hold positive memories. These will be the voices who will lead their co-workers, stand up for their rights, fight back against unjust employers, and uniting to make a life better for everyone.

Many of these young women and men will be our union activists of tomorrow. And if what I saw is an indication of what is to come, our future is in very good hands.

Just in time for Convention…

Rules of Non-Parliamentary Procedure

Brush up on these non-rules so you too can fully participate in the next OPSEU Convention!

POINT OF PERSONAL OUTRAGE

At any time during a meeting when a participant becomes extremely upset, they shall have the right to interrupt any other speaker, will not be required to wait for recognition from the Chair, and has the obligation to speak at a volume considerably higher than required for normal conversation.

POINT OF IRRELEVANT INTERJECTION

Irrespective of the motion on the floor, participants shall have the right to monopolize the meeting for not more than five minutes as they discourse on a point the relevance of which escapes all other participants.

POINT OF PERSONAL ATTACK

In response to a point raised by another speaker, a participant shall have the right to reply by launching a personal attack. At no time shall the point itself be addressed.

POINT OF ASSOCIATIVE GUILT

A participant shall have the right to impugn the solidarity of anyone at the meeting by alleging that they are, were, might be, has a third cousin who is, or may have great-grandchildren who will belong to any and all organizations designated by the participant as dedicated to the destruction of the Local or Union.

POINT OF CONTEMPT

A participant shall have the right to grunt, throw papers down on the table, shake his or her head vigorously, or otherwise demonstrate contempt for the proceedings.

POINT OF HARASSMENT

A participant shall have the right to introduce irrelevant motions for the sole purpose of delaying the meeting. It is only permissible to resort to a point of harassment when the outcome of an imminent vote is obvious.

POINT OF REDUNDANT INFORMATION

This is not to be confused with the more familiar "point of information". Whereas a point of information is a request for information from the Chair, a point of redundant information entitles a participant to tell those in the meeting something they already know.

POINT OF REDUNDANCY

This is a motion that entitles a participant to make a point made by another participant no more than five speakers earlier.

POINT OF PIOUS POSTURING

This motion entitles a participant to make reference to any By-law that allegedly supports their point of view. A correct quotation, however, immediately disqualifies the point.

POINT OF GRUDGE

Entitles a participant to raise an issue debated by the organization not less than five years earlier, for which the participant has not yet forgiven those involved.

POINT OF PERSONAL CONFUSION

To be called when the member in question has lost complete track of where the discussion is going due to the extreme tangent that it has taken.

Example: A motion to clean up the Local"s section of highway that it has "adopted" has won the floor. After several rounds of debate, the conversation is now centered around whether the members are living up their obligations (oaths, requirements, etc.). At this point Member "X" calls: "POINT OF PERSONAL CONFUSION! What the hell are we talking about?"

POINT OF PERSONAL WEIRDNESS

This is to be called if the member in question feels that the subject being discussed is of an extremely weird nature.

Example: A discussion is going on as to whether the Local President would look better covered in Spam or grape jelly. At this point Member "X" calls: "POINT OF PERSONAL WEIRDNESS! This is really weird."

Brewing beer an essential service?

IUF/CALM

Lithuania’s courts have declared beer production an essential service.

In a labour dispute that’s been brewing since last summer, the transnational beer producer Carlsberg has the support of Lithuania’s legal system.

In June 2011, members of the IUF-affiliated Lithuanian Trade Union of Food Producers (LPMS) voted in favour of strike action at the Carlsberg brewery in Lithuania in support of their demand for a decent company-level collective agreement.

In order to stop the strike, the company applied with a petition asking the district court to declare the strike ballot procedure invalid and the strike illegal, and demanded compensation for litigation costs.

The company not only tried to stop the strike and declare it illegal but also argued that no strike action was possible until the high season had passed.

The court suspended the start of the planned strike for 30 days based on a dubious determination that the production of beer was recognized as “vitally essential” in Lithuania.

On July 5, 2011 the district court ruled that the strike was legal. Carlsberg Lithuania management appealed this decision. Then on August 5, 2011 the regional court annulled the decision of the lower court, ruling that the brewery strike announced in June was illegal.

The regional court’s decision to rule the strike illegal is based on the following astonishing grounds: “The collective agreement is in compliance with the Labour Code because the wages of Carlsberg employees are above the market level, jobs are maintained and wages are not reduced.”

The regional court is attempting to legitimize Carlsberg’s attempt to freeze wages for three years by declaring a legitimate strike unlawful.

The union has appealed the regional court decision to a higher court, where it is still under appeal, and submitted a complaint to the ILO that the IUF has formally supported and that will now be examined by the Committee on Freedom of Association.

The brewery sector is unlikely to be considered an essential service by the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association. It’s expected ILO will condemn a court decision to suspend a strike for an unreasonable period, saying it denies the right to strike and contravenes international labour standards.

  • International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations

Taking on Canadian mining companies:

Report from Chiapas

Kaylan Bartholomew, Provincial Young Workers Committee, Vice-Chair.

The OPSEU Social Justice Fund supports some of the most vulnerable people and communities in Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, and Asia.  The 2012 Solidarity Tour visited Chiapas, Mexico.

Along with OPSEU communications Officer  Emily Visser, I was privileged to meet with local people and humanitarian agency representatives in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas from February 6 to February 15, 2012. I’d like to tell you about two areas in particular.

The international development organization, Horizons of Friendship, organized the tour. Horizons has partner agencies throughout Central America.

One of the most powerful experiences was our visit with local activists from the small Chiapas town of Chicomuselo. Jose Luis Abarca told us about Blackfire, the Canadian mining company currently excavating in the mountains above his town. Blackfire security guards assassinated Jose Luis’ father, Mariano, in 2009 when he mobilized the community to block the roads into his town.

There are no laws governing misbehaviour by Canadian companies in foreign countries. Parliament voted down Bill C-300, the Responsible Mining Act, in October, 2010.

When Blackfire set up business in Chicomuselo, the company promised jobs, improved social services, and better roads. Those are powerful promise in a small struggling town. Unfortunately, they did more than break promises. They did serious damage to the community and the environment. The mining company is the source of growing inequality and division causing tension even within families.

Although Blackfire hotly denies it, but local people talk of developing lesions from bathing in contaminated streams, drinking water spoiled by mudslides during rain season, and a precarious mountain of excavated earth towering above their town. Documented evidence shows that Blackfire has bought off local authorities and is illegally passing through protected land.

Company trucks that weight up to 80 tons rumble through the centre of the town causing bridges, houses, and roads to crumble. Indeed, it was Mariano Abarca’s efforts to mobilize the community to block the passage of these trucks that first brought him to the attention of Blackfire’s hired security guards. First arrested and released, then followed and beaten up, he was finally assassinated by guards wearing shirts with the Blackfire logo.

Since that time international support for the struggle of Chicomuselo has grown, and is greatly needed. Blackfire contributes daily to environmental and social problems of this region.

Activists traveled four hours each way to share their story and struggle with our delegation. OPSEU and the labour movement have a special way to show support for struggling workers. We explained this to Abarca and his companions and “passed the hat” – “pasear el sombrero” – in a show of solidarity union style.

Another highlight of the Chiapas tour was our visit to the autonomous Zapatista village, Fray Bartholome, home to only nine families.

The Zapatistas are a left-wing group of indigenous people. The 1994 Zapatista uprising sought to defend the rights of indigenous people and reclaim indigenous ownership of land and local resources. . Two years later, the federal government and the Zapatistas reached an agreement called the San Andres Accord. It was intended to protect the rights and further the cause of the indigenous people of Chiapas.

The Zapatistas formed “autonomous communities” because the Mexican Government failed to honour several of its obligations under the accord. . These communities receive no support or social assistance from the government. Run by the Zapatistas, they follow their own government system, which they call the Good Government. Made up of members of the community, the central decision-makers change every three years.

The entire community of Fray Bartholome welcomed us in their little one-room school house. We were met all of the community members and thanked them for allowing us to visit and learn about their day-to-day lives. Zapatista communities are generally closed to outsiders and you need the permission of the Good Government Junta to be welcomed.

Fray Bartholome centers around agriculture, where families grow organic corn and beans, squash and peas, and local native seeds. Though they cannot grow enough on their small amount of land to feed the entire community, they are able to exchange goods or services for what they need. The community is trying to be self-sustaining by learning better farming practices through Social and Economic Development for Indigenous Mexicans (DESMI) training sessions, which everyone in the community attends. Horizons of Friendship and OPSEU support DESMI.

As a child and youth worker, I was very interested to hear about and witness the lives of the children in this small community. The children attend school daily to learn languages, math, social studies, health, agriculture, history, and science.  An “education promoter” from the Junta teaches everyone in one room.

School supplies are scarce as the community has very little money to purchase them, so I was glad I could bring some to help out. After school, the children help with the household, childcare, cooking, and working the land.

After the talk at the school, the leaders and adults took our delegation on a community tour. I got sidetracked playing games and picking flowers with the children. As a result, I think Emily and I got the best tour. The children were very proud of where they live and enjoyed showing us their homes and livestock. They also had fun trying to teach me the names of everything in Spanish. Although the children could not speak English and I can’t speak Spanish we were able to communicate just fine with gestures and smiles. I sang songs to them and taught them some hand games. I was sad to leave as I was having such a good time. The visit ended with hugs, laughs and smiles. It was endearing that as I left the children were running up to get one last hug or bring me more flowers.

The people of Fray Bartholome were extremely grateful for our visit and the support we provide through the DESMI. Their words helped me to understand the importance of the work done through the OPSEU Social Justice Fund and partner organizations:  “It gives us strength to know we are not alone. People in neighbouring communities have seen that you came to visit us here. All around us people know we have international support. Thank you.”

For more information and to find out what you can do to support communities like Chicomuselo, visit www.miningwatch.ca.  OPSEU’s Social Justice Fund supports Mining Watch Canada’s campaign for accountability of Canadian mining companies operating in other countries.

Information on the Zapatista movement: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zapatista_Army_of_National Liberation

The OPSEU Resource Centre

First Contact

It’s 8:02 a.m. The phones have already started ringing on this Wednesday morning, and a Resource Centre Representative takes her first call of the day.

“Can you tell me if my expense cheque has been sent to me yet?”

It’s a fairly routine question for the Resource Centre. Once the member’s name, address and local number has been verified, it just takes a few clicks of the mouse to tell the member that the cheque was processed two days earlier, and is on the way.

The OPSEU Resource Centre, now in its seventh year of operation, has come a long way from its roots. Handling hundreds of calls per day, Resource Centre Representatives are the point of first contact for members, staff and the public. But don’t be mistaken…this is no high-tech switchboard. Representatives are trained to handle all kinds of inquiries: status of grievances, expense claims, what union resources are available, help to fill out forms, where to find information on the website, dates and locations for meetings, and whether a member has been accepted to attend an educational.

But, the biggest job of all is getting callers connected to the right staff person or elected official. That can be a challenge, says Nicole, who has worked in the centre for three years.

“Often, a member will call in and ask to speak to Smokey Thomas because that is the person they’re most familiar with when they actually need to talk to someone in the Health and Safety Unit,”  says Nicole. “It’s about getting all the information from the caller, and then providing a bit of education on how the union works.”

Educating members on OPSEU, its structure, and how services are provided is a crucial part of the job. A small investment of time can pay big dividends down the road.

Representative Marisa says members often don’t know where to turn when they need help. “We try to walk them through the stages – first, contacting their local executive, or, depending on the problem, putting them in touch with their local Staff Representative. Although our activists view this as second nature, members who don’t have regular contact with the union often need extra time to learn the steps.”

Regardless of the nature of the call, the first priority for all of the Resource Centre Reps is to ensure the privacy and confidentiality of members’ information. This can often lead to frustration for callers, but it is a vital part of the process.

“One of the biggest complaints we receive is that we need to identify the callers and then try to update their personal information before moving ahead with the reason for the call,” says Cynthia, one of the first staff to become a Resource Centre Representative. “If the person won’t give their name, we don’t know who we’re talking to, and can’t help them get to the right resources. We have to make sure we are actually talking to a member, and not an employer or member of the public or the media.”

Updating member information is also a high priority. Representatives are supposed to do this with every member calling in so that the union always has the latest information. “During the CAAT Support strike it was obvious many members didn’t have their contact information up to date,” says Cynthia. “We were flooded with calls from members who weren’t getting critical information. Many think that by giving their employer updated addresses, phone numbers and e-mail that the union gets it too. We don’t.”

With most union information now going out electronically, often the biggest hindrance is members who list only an employer e-mail address for contact. Members are reminded that many employers block e-mail coming from OPSEU, and also have the full legal right to monitor any employee’s work e-mail account.

No matter what the question or issue, the Representatives do their best to remain calm and cool during the calls. “Sometimes members are calling who are quite angry or upset,” Representative Toni says. “We understand that. We try to calm the person down, and do our best to help.”

That doesn’t mean that the Resource Centre doesn’t get its fair share of calls that could be best described as, well, odd. One member wanted to sign up for OPSEU’s “Bowling Course.” It took a bit of time to explain it was actually the Bullying Course. Some have called to ask which colour of the grievance form should be faxed to OPSEU.

“The calls that always cause us to shake our heads a bit are the members who call to ask for a particular phone number,” says Carol, a 12-year employee. “Just as soon as we start to give it to them, they say ‘Wait! I need to find a pen!’ Weren’t they anticipating needing one?”

However, one of the all-time champions was a woman who wanted to become an OPSEU member, especially because members get good deals on cell phones. While OPSEU always welcomes new members, this one could have been problematic: she was self-employed. “It wasn’t until I asked her who OPSEU would sit with at the bargaining table to negotiate her contract with that she finally understood,” Carol said.

For many calls, all it takes is knowledge, patience and a bit of compassion to get the member what they need.

“We use our own judgment on what to ask, and how far we can go,” said Sue, one of the bilingual Representatives. “We do our best to respect the member’s privacy, especially when dealing with equity, human rights and harassment issues. We also continually assure members that their personal information is held in strict privacy, and the employer is never given any information.”

Sue says Reps often explain the limits of their roles. “For example, we can tell members where to find particular issues in their collective agreement, but we are not allowed to give any advice or interpretations. That’s the role of staff reps or negotiators. We are also not allowed to give out staff extensions or cell phone numbers. However, staff can electronically post where they are or how they can be reached if they are not in the office, so that makes it easier for us to contact them. Many members don’t want to get voice mail. We do everything possible to get them connected with a live person.”

And that was the whole premise all along, and one of the biggest reasons the OPSEU Resource Centre was created back in 2005: person-to-person contact with the union. “One of the biggest drawbacks to communications progress is people are tired of pressing buttons for menus, leaving messages, or simply not finding a live voice to talk to,” says Nadia. “We want members to always have someone to talk to, to listen to their story, and to help them with their issue. That’s what we do. Although not every caller is satisfied, we try to make their experience as positive as we can from the time we answer the phone.”

For OPSEU, and the 130,000 members it serves, positive experiences are what belonging to a union is all about.

Health and Safety Act and the Law

Your Right to Know

Nancy Hart-Day, In Solidarity

In October of 2011, I had the privilege of attending a two-week course, Health and Safety and the Law, through the Workers Health and Safety Centre.

Not only did I have knowledgeable instructor named Noeline, but I was also able to establish a network of friends I can call upon for resources. Through this course, I was able to learn how to read and understand the language of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Who knew there was such a difference between the words “may” and “shall”? I didn’t!

Let me give you my perspective. I am a correctional officer in a maximum-security facility. “May” is just a polite way of saying “shall”. So, once I got my head out of the institution and opened my eyes and ears, and shut my mouth, I had a great deal to learn.

Often, people are bored with health and safety issues because they don’t understand it, or they don’t think it applies to them, or they believe it’s part of their job. As a Corrections employee, working with the inmate population, it is often understood there are things we endure, and are inherent parts of the job. Yes, we use universal precautions to keep ourselves safe, but nothing stops an inmate from covering their cell doors, walls, and floor with feces. We have no specialized team to come in and sanitize the area.  It is expected that either a staff member or an inmate will clean the area with a biohazard kit so the cell can be reused. Our cells are not made of steel but porous concrete blocks. Are you getting my drift? . . . pun intended.

We used to escort inmates in the public, by ourselves, via a taxi service. However, due to the sacrifices made by the courageous staff who had to endure this process (which was viewed as “inherent” in our job), we now have bullet proof vests, pepper spray, handcuffs, and expandable batons to escort inmates in the community. All of these wins have come from grassroots work – concerns, complaints, refusals – in health and safety. The Provincial Joint Health and Safety Committee fought for these changes, but it was the worker who paid the price for that change through the years of unsafe working conditions.

In Corrections, we don’t have our own regulations under the OHSA, unlike the Health Care and residential facilities, teachers, constructions, mining workers, farmers and firefighters. We have the Industrial Establishment Act which we are to use, however it’s not work-specific to Corrections. Maybe one day that will change, and Corrections will have their own regulations under the Act. In the meantime, people need to know their rights under OSHA.

The employer will often blame the worker for accidents instead of looking at the issue at hand. One of the crucial things I learned during this course was this: to get to the cause of an accident and learn about hazards in the workplace, keep asking yourself why until you can’t answer it anymore.

For example:

Question: Why did the employee fall?
Answer: The employee fell because there was a box there and she tripped over it.

Question: Why was the box there?
Answer: Because someone dropped it off and put it there.

Question: Why did someone drop it off at that spot?
Answer: There was no other place to put it.

Question: Why don’t we have a designated spot for these boxes?
Answer: I don’t know.

So, what caused the injury? Not having a designated area to drop off boxes. Sometimes a simple piece of information can help you determine the cause of an accident and identify a hazard.

The OPSEU website has a great tool about knowing your rights. It’s handy, resourceful, and informative. In it there are links to the OHSA, and regulation and guides. It’s called A Worker’s Guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Act.. Read it. Know it. It’s your right!

Protections during probation

Even when the economy is lousy, a lot of employers still have to hire people to replace at least some of their retirees and quits. That’s the good news for some people, especially if the employer is a unionized workplace. With new hires, though, comes an old problem: what about the probation period?

There’s a common misunderstanding that centers around unions, contracts, new workers and probationary periods. The situation is this: There is a probationary period in every contract, usually running anywhere from 30 days to two years. The language of the contract usually blocks the union from challenging the discharge of a probationary worker during the period. The understanding is that the boss wants to take a look at new people before deciding whether to keep them, while the union doesn’t want the trouble and expense of defending a “bad” worker right away.

So a myth develops that, during a probation period, the union can’t do anything for a worker.

Wrong.

At the same time, a union security agreement in the contract may compel a new worker to join the union long before the probationary period is up, creating more friction. The lament of the probationary worker is: “If the union can’t do anything for me, why do I have to pay dues?”

Wrong again.

It is essential for stewards, who are the first point of contact for new workers, to understand all the things that come with a union contract and union strength in the workplace. Stewards must be able to explain how these things cover even a new worker.

Describe the Benefits

From the moment a new worker hits the time clock for the very first time, there are enormous benefits to being under a union contract. Here are just some of them, and stewards should be prepared to reel them off to new workers.

Because you’re working in a unionized workplace, starting pay is generally much higher than minimum wage, with guaranteed wage progressions built into the contract. A worker may get one of these automatic step increases well before the end of a probationary period, but it comes because the contract requires it, not because a boss takes a liking to you.

Most union contracts provide time and a half after eight hours. So new workers, on the very first day on the job, will be entitled to overtime if they work beyond the normal work day. In fact, by getting overtime pay for just one shift, an individual worker may pocket more than an entire month’s worth of union dues – a clear sign of the cash value of a union contract.

Many union contacts allow all workers – including the probationary workers – to get paid holidays. Or to gain coverage under a health insurance plan, or to pick up any of the other economic benefits that the union has negotiated.

As a contrast, remember that the laws require that a boss provide a worker only with the minimum wage required by law, time and a half over 40 hours in a week, and workers’ compensation.

Educate New Workers

For a steward, it is important to deal with the ignorance of most probationary workers about their union. After all, workers have been taught in school, and often at home, that “Big Labour” is only after your money. New hires are brainwashed into believing that any benefits they get are a gift of a generous and benevolent boss. The phrase that tips off their thinking is “The company gives us…”

A shrewd steward will immediately, but not belligerently, challenge this statement. It is really helpful if the union has prepared a new member kit, welcoming new hires and showing how each improvement was won through tough negotiations and even through sacrifices, such as a strike. This is all part of the process of turning a new worker into a solid union member.

Another Benefit

Probationary workers immediately gain the protection of the union organization in the workplace. Who better than a steward to protect a new worker against unsafe working conditions or against an abusive supervisor – and on the very first day of work! Or who better than a steward to tell a probationary worker about workers compensation or about the right to full break periods. Or to make sure that the probationary worker is not subjected to any of the forms of discrimination that are specifically banned by the union contract.

So, the union is well worth the dues money for every worker, even if there are limits in the contract on grieving a discharge.

So an alert steward will let every new hire know that all the terms and conditions of the contract apply, and that the benefits that flow from the contract are not a gift from the boss but are the result of hard work, sacrifice and solid union organization. A probationary worker should be glad for the chance to get the benefits – and to pay union dues as part of the bargain.

Bill Barry. The writer is director of labour studies for the Community College of Baltimore (MD) County.

Scholarship funds empower the next generation

It is estimated that more than 30 per cent of the current workforce will be in a position to retire within the next five years. By 2040, the number of workers to non-workers will drop from 5:1 to 2:1, according to Statistics Canada.

With such staggering statistics, succession planning may be lost as the knowledge base and living memory exits the workplace. To ensure that the labour movement succeeds for years to come, that education needs to be shared with the next generation. It is also important to encourage future activists to be socially aware and responsible.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) and the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) offer scholarships for the children of members attending post-secondary education, all centered on labour and social justice issues.

Applications may include the requirement for a written submission or essay. Application deadlines vary.

OPSEU has five scholarships to offer:

The OPSEU Global Solidarity Fund brings awareness to HIV/AIDS and international worker solidarity. The deadline to apply for the $1,000 award is June 15 of each year.

The Larry Cripps Scholarship Fund was established in memory of Cripps, a Correctional Officer and long-time union activist who passed away in 2004.

The $2,000 award is open to post-secondary students enrolled in corrections services or police foundations courses. The deadline to apply is June 15 of each year.

The Curt Bishop Scholarship Fund focuses on health and safety issues in the workplace. The deadline to apply for the $1,000 award is August 1 of each year.

Bishop dedicated more than two decades to improving health and safety in the workplace. From Local 678 (Algoma Treatment and Remand Center), Bishop died in June 2008.

The HPD (Hospital Professionals Division) Scholarship Fund offers seven awards of $750 each – one for each region – to post-secondary students enrolled in a Hospital Professionals program. The deadline to apply is September 1 of each year.

The Carol McGregor Scholarship Fund is available to those with visible or invisible disabilities. Applications for the $3,000 award must be received by September 15 of each year.

McGregor was a seasoned activist who fought tireless for disability rights. She died in 2006.

To find out more about OPSEU scholarships, including requirements and how to apply, visit: http://opseu.org/notices/opseuscholar.htm.

NUPGE offers four scholarships. Each is for $1,500. The deadline is June 30 of each year.

The Tommy Douglas Scholarship Fund asks applicants to discuss how Tommy Douglas contributed making Canada more just and equitable society.

The Terry Fox Scholarship Fund asks applicants to discuss the importance of quality public services to enhancing the quality of life for people with disabilities.

The Aboriginal Canadians Scholarship Fund asks applicants to discuss the importance of quality public service to enhancing the quality of life for Aboriginal Canadians.

The Visible Minorities Scholarship Fund asks applicants to discuss the importance of quality public services for visible minorities.

For more information about these NUPGE scholarships, including application requirements, visit http://www.nupge.ca/scholarships.

The OFL offers two scholarships worth $2,000 each. Details about the scholarships, including application requirements and deadlines, will be available in early April 2012. For more information, visit www.ofl.ca.

The Rainbow Connection

Lisa Bicum, In Solidarity

This past July, my children and I were walking through Toronto’s Church-Wellesley Village shortly after this summer’s Pride Parade. The Village was bedecked in rainbow flags. My kids commented on all of the flags and how beautiful the rainbows were and wondered what they were for. I reminded them that families come in all shapes, sizes, and formations, and about the Pride Toronto movement to which they responded, “Cool!” There was one question I couldn’t answer: Why the rainbow?

The answer came to me many months later when I was reading the latest issue of Mental Floss magazine (a must read!), and the colourful history of the rainbow flag was described.

In the late 1970s, Gilbert Baker, a retired soldier living in California, had taught himself to sew and was making costumes for drag performances and banners for gay rights protests. He befriended political organizer Harvey Milk, who asked Baker to create a symbol for the gay rights movement of that time. Baker chose the rainbow which he believed would reflect the diversity of the LGBT community. The rainbow flag was first flown at the San Francisco gay pride parade June 25, 1978. A few months later, Harvey Milk was assassinated, and the flag lived on as a symbol for gay rights.

Pledge to fight for health and safety

Lisa Bicum, In Solidarity

Workplace injury and death: those are words none of us ever wants hear. However, the reality is that in 2009, 939 workplace deaths were registered with workers’ compensation boards across Canada (Number of Fatalities, by Jurisdiction, 1993-2009). Although we strive to be safe, accidents happen, and our workplaces may cause us to become seriously ill.

You may be asking yourself what you can do. Apart from striving to be safe in our daily work, we can set time aside to remember those who have been injured, become seriously ill, or who have died on the job. In 1991, the federal government officially recognized April 28 as the National Day of Mourning, and each year in our communities, commemorative events are held to mark this day. On Parliament Hill, the Canadian flag will fly at half mast, and workers all over the country will light candles, wear ribbons, and observe moments of silence.

The Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) hopes that we all will give this day some serious thought. The CCOHS strongly promotes the annual recognition of this day so that we will work together to establish safe working conditions for all. In their promotion of this important day, the CCOHS has created several resources to help us spread the word.

Let’s do our part. Find out what activities are scheduled for your community. Contact CCOHS for a poster or some promotional items. In remembrance of those who have died, been injured, or have become ill because of workplace hazards, let us pledge to fight for improved health and safety in the workplace.

For more information, contact the CCOHS at 1-800-668-4284 or visit http://www.ccohs.ca/ccohs/inquiries  Also, a quick Google search will help you find what is going

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