Thomas: “Celebrate our success”
President Warren (Smokey) Thomas covered a wide range of topics during his address to the 2018 OPSEU convention ranging from pensions to the upcoming provincial election to sexual harassment.
Thomas was joined by board members Gareth Jones and Len Elliott to discuss the expansion of the broader public sector (BPS) pension plan – a deal that was worked out with the provincial government this week.
Roughly 25,000 BPS members and nearly one million people outside of the unionow have access to a defined benefit plan, again underscoring the power of the union movement with this historic development.
Thomas also talked about the union’s plans for the upcoming provincial election.
On May 8, a teletown hall called “Talk Ontario” will be held for Ontarians to weigh in on at an OPSEU election platform that will be unveiled before the election campaign begins.Visit www.talkontario.ca to learn more and text “vote better” to 647-933-2323 to join the campaign.
The President’s speech began with an explanation of Convention 2018’s symbol, an origami crane. The crane represents healing and hope, and originates from a survivor who developed leukemia from the Hiroshima bombing. This survivor decided to make an origami crane every day as a part of her journey of hope and healing.
These sentiments are particularly relevant to Convention’s theme of “We are the change.” As activists, we certainly endure struggle and adversity, so making hope and healing a priority is crucial to our progress.
Thomas also talked about the steps OPSEU is taking to curb sexual harassment in light of the #metoo movement.
Training on sexual harassment and bullying was given to OPSEU senior staff and Executive Board Members this month, and there are plans to roll out training to broader staff and the activist base as well.
Yussuff talks tough on Ford
OPSEU 2018 Convention kicked off with a rousing speech from Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff, who told delegates that Doug Ford can never be allowed to become Premier of Ontario.
Yussuff took aim at the Progressive Conservative leader, saying “We have to ensure that Doug Ford does not become the bloody Premier of this province.”
Yussuff said it’s necessary to “organize the unorganized” and that labour has collective strength when its members stand together and fight.
Yussuff reminded delegates of the gains with respect to universal pharmacare, pensions, gender equity, and workers’ health and safety.
Delegates also heard from York Regional Labour Council President John Cartwright, who gave a powerful speech about the importance of public services, the fight against privatization and the monumental strides made in the labour movement. Bill 148, the $15 and Fairness campaign and 20,000 new college workers gaining a union voice at work are all inspirational wins to celebrate.
The tone was set for the Convention when it opened with two classic activist songs, "Raise a Little Hell" and "Make it Work" – both apt messages in light of Convention’s theme, “We are the change.”
Chief Stacey Laforme opened the day’s ceremonies by reminding members that we all have an obligation to the planet and to one another. He spoke about embracing our uniqueness, as no one should ever have to change to fit into the world. Instead, the world needs to adapt to us. As local leaders and activists of OPSEU we push for this inclusion and diversity in all the work we do.
A.M. Credentials Report
Executive Board Members: 21
Committee members: 54
P.M. Credentials Report
Executive Board Members: 21
Committee members: 54
Resolutions, budget and board reports
A1 was carried – a resolution to approve receipt of the 2017 Financial Statements and that the President and First Vice President/Treasurer be authorized to sign the financial statements on behalf of the Executive Board.
A2 was carried – a resolution to endorse the actions of the Executive Board from the closing of the last Convention until the closing of this Convention.
A3 was carried – a resolution to appoint PWC, PricewaterhouseCoopers, to be Auditors of OPSEU for the fiscal year January 1, 2018 through to December 31, 2018 and the Executive Board fix the Auditors’ remuneration.
C1 was carried – a resolution that as a member-driven union, OPSEU reaffirm its commitment to the democratic principle that members must have meaningful input into the collective bargaining process;
Health and Safety
H1 was defeated – a resolution that OPSEU will prepare a written report providing a detailed summary of the external consultant’s finding, and including a complete list of the consultant’s recommendations together with the specific actions OPSEU plans to take or has taken to address each recommendation, for review, discussion and adoption by the Executive Board; and
The full report of the external consultant stemming from Emergency Resolution EB16 from 2016 Convention will be provided to the OPSEU Executive Board for review, discussion and action as required, unless this has already taken place; and
That OPSEU will provide copies of its final written report to the officers of each Division, Sector and Local and the members of each Provincial Equity Committee or Caucus, by June 30, 2018.
First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida presented the Budget Report.
The Budget Report was carried as presented.
The Executive Board Report was carried.
Health and Safety Award – Individual
Kelly Martin, Local 330
Kelly Martin has worked tirelessly against an employer who refuses to follow the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) when it comes to violence in the workplace.
She regularly reaches out to the Ministry of Labour and visits worksites and members to ensure they are provided with the proper personal protective equipment.
This year, she ramped up her efforts by reaching out to the media on numerous occasions to bring awareness to the challenges members faced around violence in schools.
If that wasn’t enough, she then orchestrated a large information rally on a cold fall evening that was well attended by members and other union affiliates while board trustees were meeting. The media reported on the event, which led to Kelly’s being threatened by senior management and the director because of her actions as an advocate.
This did not deter Kelly or cause her to retreat. It only strengthened her resolve to fight for her members by engaging with the Ministry of Labour, board trustees and members.
In addition to all this, she has spent many of hours in her personal time checking on injured members and driving them to medical appointments.
Health and Safety Award – Local
Mental Health Division
The whole division was nominated, because all members took a stand against workplace violence, both mental and physical.
This can be seen by their violence toolkits, charges against the employer, arbitration awards, job action, refusals, rallies and raising awareness in the media – the list goes on.
The leadership of the bargaining units and the rank and file of the division should be recognized for their actions in making everyone safe.
Convention: Let’s reflect…and appreciate
Maria Bauer, inSolidarity
During our annual Convention, we need to step back and think about all the thought, work and efforts that are put into this exciting event.
We’re here because we’re all working people trying to create a better working environment for ourselves, our co-workers and future workers.
Think about the members and locals that put together meetings to attend this Convention and the efforts to bring forward their resolutions and complete paperwork on time.
Think about the endless hours OPSEU staff put into making all this happen. The administration, the organizing of hotel rooms, flights and numerous requests members have when travelling. The physical set-up, the sound and light people, carrying boxes, moving tables, and double, maybe triple, checking that everything is just right.
Consider the workers on the buses, the hotel workers, the cab drivers, and the people in the restaurants cooking and serving you. All these people worked hard to make sure you and I have a great experience at this Convention.
We need to remember that things can go wrong and most likely will go wrong when something as big as our annual Convention is happening. Remember that not one of the workers’ plan was to make something go wrong or ruin your event. Their plan was to go to work and do the best possible job they can.
Take a moment to thank a worker today and every day – and remember to always be kind.
OPSEU takes members out to the ballgame
With winter-like weather conditions, not to mention the threat of falling ice from the CN Tower, it’s hard to get excited about attending a Toronto Blue Jays game. But that’s precisely what a large group of OPSEU Convention attendees did Wednesday evening.
Game attendance hovered around 21,000, but anyone attending would be forgiven for thinking OPSEU members extended far beyond the union’s reserved section 113 – it was easily the loudest and most enthusiastic group in the stadium.
One member confided, “I don’t get to Toronto very often, so it’s a real treat to take in a game with my OPSEU brothers and sisters. The only thing that makes it better is knowing that some of the cost of the tickets will go to OPSEU’s Live and Let Live Fund.”
With J. Happ on the mound, the Jays sent a strong message that they’d be closing out this series with strong defence and an explosive offence that has caught fire in previous weeks.
The Jays didn’t disappoint. They closed out the three-game home stand with a commanding 15-5 victory to sweep the series.
But of course, the big winner was the OPSEU Live and Let Live Fund.