OPSEU continues to reach out to the world in its battle against the privatization of public services.
On November 6, a group of high-ranking union officials from the state of Chung-Nam, South Korea, arrived in Ontario to learn about OPSEU and to find out what the union is doing to combat privatization.
OPSEU officials chat informally with their Korean guests before the presentation.
“The scourge of privatization is not limited to Ontario or Canada or North America,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU, in addressing the Korean delegates. “Privatization is a worldwide phenomenon that has as little respect for borders as it does for the delivery of quality public services. We’re committed to helping defeat it whenever and wherever it rears its ugly head.”
President Thomas and First VP/Treasurer Almeida listen to Korean interpreter Jay Jeou
Through an interpreter, Thomas welcomed delegates and engaged them in an informal question-and-answer session, speaking of the UK origins of OPSEU’s We Own It campaign against privatization and its spread to Australia and Canada.
Thomas, Almedia and Doig at the reception
On hand were Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, First Vice-President/Treasurer of OPSEU, and a number of OPSEU officials. With Communications Administrator Pam Doig moderating the presentation, they went on to describe OPSEU operations and unionizing in Ontario in response to the Korean delegation’s three principal interests: collective bargaining, organizing, and campaigning.
Steve Saysell addresses the Korean delegates on negotiating
Steve Saysell, a supervisor in the Negotiations Division, spoke about the 587 collective agreements that OPSEU bargains. He also underscored the importance of research for evaluating government policy and analyzing bargaining trends.
Ed Ogibowski speaks to delegates about organizing
Organizing supervisor Ed Ogibowski was asked a lot of questions on matters like the sectors OPSEU represents, how unions are certified in Ontario, and union dues.
Libby Zeleke, a human rights officer in the Equity Unit, triggered some awe among delegates in speaking to the union’s approach to equity, noting that 80 per cent of OPSEU’s membership is represented by at least one of the union’s nine equity committees and caucuses. She also spoke to OPSEU’s social mapping project and its many equity-themed initiatives.
Libby Zeleke discusses equity with Korean delegates
President Thomas wrapped up the presentation by assuring delegates of OPSEU’s commitment to keeping the lines of communication open.
“When there’s a global problem – and privatization certainly spans the globe – you need a global solution,” he said. “But big solutions don’t happen all at once. As the saying goes, you need to take that first step.
“It’s encounters like this one today, where knowledge, experience, and ideas are shared, that are going to help slay the privatization dragon in places like Korea, Australia, and wherever public services are threatened.”