Toronto – This week at the annual convention of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, over 2,000 members will be updated on actions OPSEU is taking to train all staff on sexual harassment and to promote harassment-free workplaces across the province. Members will also be updated on how the union responded to a sexual harassment incident last year.
Martin Regg Cohn, Toronto Star columnist, informed OPSEU of his intention to publish a column questioning the union’s handling of the latter.
"There is no place in our union for harassment of any sort. We will not tolerate it and when allegations were first made on a matter in 2015, we acted swiftly, compassionately and decisively," said OPSEU President Smokey Thomas. “I am disappointed that a journalist from what is supposed to be Canada’s leading newspaper is trying to use this serious matter to try to diminish the integrity of our union."
Following the incident last year, OPSEU took decisive action by terminating the accused, offering victims extensive support, consulting staff unions, engaging legal firms and experts in the field of workplace harassment to strengthen policies and procedures, and undertaking a full and thorough external investigation.
In addition, and with the full support of the Executive Board, the union launched an awareness, prevention and empowerment campaign and is training all staff. The Ministry of Labour has called the union’s handling of the issue, and its new training videos, “cutting edge.” The ministry has requested the materials be shared with the Ontario government. (View the videos here and here.)
"The matter is before the courts, so there should be respect for the victims and for the legal process,” said Thomas. “It would appear that someone is politically compelled to question our strategy, and is motivated to do it just as our convention kicks off. In fact, we believe that sexual assault and harassment is a societal problem and we are committed to its eradication."
OPSEU represents 130,000 members across Ontario, two-thirds of whom are women.
For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas 613-329-1931