It is with sadness that I inform you of the passing of Phil Cunnington a few days ago at his home in Coquitlam, B.C.
Phil joined Sault College in August 1980 as a member of the business department. He taught various courses, including economics, business, and labour relations. He was universally well liked and respected by his colleagues and students.
Phil was a dedicated trade unionist and was a major influence within OPSEU, particularly within the CAAT-Academic Division. He served as president of Local 613 and was a member of the divisional executive, as well as a multi-term member of the CAAT-A negotiating team, of which he was chair for one term.
He was also a trustee with the CAAT Pension Plan, where he earned the admiration of management, government, plan officials, and the entire CAAT-A Division. Only a few of us in CAAT-A may remember Phil or may have worked with him, but every CAAT-A member should pause and give thanks for his influence on the plan. Some of the policies he instituted have made it one the most stable and beneficial pension plans anywhere.
Phil spent several years on assignment at the plan, working out of Centennial College in Toronto. Retirement couldn’t stop him from continuing to help members in pension and labour relations matters.
His gentle personality combined with a sharp mind for detail, as well as a background in law – he never gave up his membership in the Law Society of Upper Canada – to bring a fearless approach to union activism.
Phil was a personal mentor to many in terms of teaching college, program and curriculum design, union activism, and union/management relations. In fact, I am one of those whom he mentored. But true to his modest style and sense of humour, he would never admit it – and if he were reading this, I would get a “cease and desist” message!
Phil proved that, with good preparation, almost anything can be accomplished. His trademark bundle of pencils symbolized his commitment to never missing an opportunity to do the right thing by someone and for someone.
He will be greatly missed.
Regional Vice-President, Region 6
Message from Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU
It was my great pleasure and privilege to know and work with Phil over many years. He truly believed in the labour movement and worked hard to advance its cause. He gave much of his life to improving the lives of uncounted others and to making Ontario society more just and more compassionate – especially for those most in need. For this, Phil deserves the recognition and gratitude of every Ontarian.
His was a life truly well lived. I extend my deepest sympathies to Phil’s loved ones and friends, and all who worked with him. May he rest in peace.