With more than 800 delegates, alternates and observers looking on, OPSEU leaders today officially opened the 25th anniversary conference of the Broader Public Service (BPS) in Toronto, saying the sector has enjoyed a phenomenal past and a future that promises to be even better.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas and Jamie Ramage, Chair of the BPS’s All Chairs Committee, shared the stage in welcoming delegates to the biennial conference. Both reminded delegates that the growth of the BPS over the past quarter century has been nothing less than dramatic and that its influence over public policy and legislation has been profound.
“The impact of the BPS on policy, regulations and laws is unbelievable,” said Thomas, citing workplace health and safety as just one example of how OPSEU has set the standard that the provincial government and other unions have followed. “For whatever reasons, we don’t celebrate these achievements nearly enough. We should.”
The membership size of the BPS sector inside OPSEU has tripled to 75,000 over the past 25 years. Thomas said the majority of OPSEU members are now BPS members – first because of OPSEU’s success at organizing and second because of the union’s commitment to re-organize members as the government restructures services.
With a provincial election less than a year away, the OPSEU president urged delegates to get out and push the union’s agenda: to oppose privatization, to stop precarious employment, and to strengthen health and safety laws.
“We don’t want to re-elect Kathleen Wynne,” he said. “We don’t want to elect another right-wing party, the Tories. And the NDP unanimously endorsed our We Own It campaign at their last convention. What I want to see is for OPSEU to have an influence on the election policies of all three parties.”
The conference opened with short video statements from the chairs of each of the BPS’s 19 divisions. While they acknowledged the challenges BPS members face, they also pointed to the contribution OPSEU members make to improve quality of life in Ontario.
“We love the work we do,” said Ramage. “There’s a real mission we share. We all want to make our contributions to the public even stronger.”
The theme of this year’s conference is “Work, Life and Beyond,” with an emphasis on how BPS members can plan for their future after retirement. Delegates heard from Anthony Quinn, an analyst with the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP), who explained recent changes at the Canadian Pension Plan.
The conference continues tomorrow and Sunday with sectoral educationals and elections for divisional executives.