More than 40 local leaders and stewards from Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) offices across the province met virtually last week with their ministry’s MERC team and OPSEU/SEFPO leaders to plan a fight-back to the downloading of their work from the Ontario Public Service to municipalities.
President Warren (Smokey) Thomas and First Vice President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida attended the morning session and pledged the full support of the union to the campaign to save their work.
“I didn’t agree with downloading when they did it with Ontario Works in the 90’s, and I don’t agree with it now with ODSP,” said Thomas. “I’ve always said we should be uploading social programs to the province, not the other way around.” Now, more than ever, we should be centralizing social assistance so that everyone across the province gets the same services no matter where they live.”
Almeida agreed, and talked about the importance of collective action to get the government to change their plans. “I encourage you to rally the members in your locals to get together and lobby your local MPPs on the issue,” he said. “You don’t have to be a high-priced professional in a fancy suit to lobby. You are the front line experts. You know what you’re talking about. So speak from the heart and from your own personal and professional experience.”
Also in attendance were OPS CERC chair Neil Martin and Regional Vice President Tara Langford. Langford is also the Division Chair of the Municipalities Sector which represents OPSEU/SEFPO’s Ontario Works (OW) members, and has worked with the MCCSS MERC team on issues that affect the social assistance system as a whole.
In the morning, MERC Co-Chair Nicole St. Amand updated everyone on what the employer has shared with the union to date, answered questions, and led a lengthy discussion where members reported back on what they’ve heard locally and shared their ideas and concerns.
The afternoon was devoted to planning the fight-back. They made concrete plans for local outreach and collective actions, and committed to organizing the members of their locals to lobby their MPPs. They were equipped with lobbying kits to share with their members.
At the end of the day, dozens of ODSP members and their MERC team were ready to take these plans back to their locals and carry them out.
They also left with the support and encouragement of OPSEU/SEFPO’s leadership. “You’re not alone in this fight,” President Thomas told them. “Your union is here for you, always. As a union, we’ve got collective power, and we’re not afraid to use it.”