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Social services heroes look to the future

The 1980s glam rock anthem “Final Countdown” blared over the sound system as the executive members of OPSEU’s Community Services Divisional Council (CSDC) danced into the auditorium wearing capes. Thus opened the 2016 CSDC Pre-Bargaining Conference on November 20.


The Community Services Divisional Council (CSDC) poses in their capes.

The capes represented the everyday heroes social services workers are. As one participant said, “We rarely take the time to acknowledge that we have some pretty amazing super hero skills.”


President Thomas poses for a picture with the delegates at the 2016 CSDC Pre-Bargaining Conference.

The two-day conference brought together delegates from all five OPSEU social services sectors – community agencies, children’s aid societies, developmental services, child treatment centres, and BPS corrections.


Delegates from all five social services sectors, from all over the province, attended the CSDC pre-bargaining conference.

Through a series of workshops, delegates focused on building solidarity and bargaining capacity among their own memberships. Labour relations expert Gary Furlong moderated a panel discussion with members, discussing local successes, and how members can apply those lessons in their own bargaining.


(From left to right) Labour relations expert Gary Furlong moderates a panel discussion on bargaining successes with Local 145 president and CSDC Chair  Deb Gordon; Local 740 vice-president and Chair of OPSEU's Provincial Young Workers Committee Ken Maclam; and Local 116 president and Social Committee Chair for Region 1 Area Council, Karen Cudmore.

Another key theme of the conference was the union’s continued fight against the austerity measures that are strangling social services in Ontario.


President Thomas talks about the need to continue fighting austerity.

In his opening remarks, OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas called on members to continue fighting hard. “Every marker on poverty is worse than before the Liberals took power,” he said. “We must keep calling out the government. If we don’t fight, I’m afraid to think of what will happen to social services, the lifeblood of this province.”

The conference also launched OPSEU’s newest video, Telling our Stories: reimagining the safety net. A year in the making, the film examines why social services are so important to the life of our province. It was overwhelmingly well received by members, one commenting, “that was incredible. It’s so important for us to realize how important we are in peoples’ lives, even if we don’t always see it. This video is an excellent reminder.”


Delegates were divided into sector-specific workshops on day two of the conference.

Members gave glowing reviews of the creative and informative workshops put together by the CSDC team and their OPSEU staff counterparts. Reflecting on the two days, CSDC Chair Deb Gordon said, “I think we collectively created a buzz within the membership. I hope that positive energy vibrates back to all of our members to support us all in continuing the work we do, whether it’s building strong communities or strong collective agreements.”