President Thomas speaks at Ivey Leaders Forum


For the first time in its 93 year history, the Ivey Business School invited a labour leader to speak to its students.

On November 13, OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas accompanied by OPSEU Regional Vice President of Southwestern Ontario Ron Elliot, addressed more than 70 Business students in London, Ontario at the school’s annual Ivey Leader’s Forum.

The event is an opportunity for high profile leaders from various business organizations to interact with the next generation of business people in a more personal way.

The theme of this year’s forum was “Who would have thought?” and its intention was to expose students to the insights, adaptations and pivots their predecessors have made, and to highlight that they too will make pivots.

The leadership of trade unions is a much neglected aspect in the field of modern leadership studies. President Thomas discussed the important role the union movement has played in society as an agent for social, political, and economic change.  He spoke on issues related to labour management, protecting your reputation, as well as business ethics.  

When asked what he believed was the union movement’s greatest accomplishment he was quick to reply that it was maternity leave and pay equity.  “Maternity leave has positively advanced women’s careers by recognizing their important contributions to the economy in particular and society in general. Pay equity addresses the need that women are to be paid equally for work of equal value.”

President Thomas also addressed the labour movements’ victories that brought employees weekends off and the 40 hour work week.

He also spoke to students about honesty and ethics in business. One student asked how the business community can improve its tarnished image in the public’s eye. “Always tell the truth and be honest. Your reputation follows you,” President Thomas succinctly told students. 

President Thomas’ final advice was to always speak the truth to power. “They might not like it, but they will respect you. If the boss doesn’t like it then perhaps it’s not the right workplace for you,” he advised.

Following the presentation, students commented on the buzz generated by President Thomas’ appearance.  Event organizer Reilly Harrison was very pleased with the response, “Smokey brought in a new perspective to Ivey and it really resonated with students. We are so grateful.”