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Update #2 on implementation of emergency resolution from Convention

We the North
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OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas has sent the message below to all OPSEU Executive Board Members, local presidents, sector chairs, MERC chairs, and chairs of provincial committees and caucuses.


October 21, 2016

Memo to: OPSEU Executive Board Members, local presidents, sector chairs, MERC chairs, chairs of provincial committees and caucuses
From: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President
Subject:  Update on implementation of our emergency resolution from Convention

Dear friends:

I am writing to update you on our progress towards implementing the emergency resolution passed by Convention in April.

As you may recall, delegates to the 2016 OPSEU Convention voted overwhelmingly in favour of an emergency resolution that called on the union to arrange for an independent review of OPSEU policies and practices with respect to harassment and discrimination in OPSEU workplaces. Part of the review involves examining our complaint processes and workplace culture.

The full text of the resolution is below, for your reference.

As part of the implementation plan, the emergency resolution called for the creation of an ad hoc task force made up of Executive Board Members, excluded (management) staff at OPSEU, and representatives of our two staff unions, the Ontario Public Service Staff Union (OPSSU) and the Administrative Staff Union (ASU). Current members of the committee are:

  • Executive Board: Regional Vice-Presidents Sara Labelle (Region 3) and Jeff Arbus (Region 6), plus Executive Board Members Ed Arvelin (Region 7) and Chrisy Tremblay (Region 4);
  • OPSSU: Pati Habermann and Megan Park;
  • ASU: Robin Gordon; and
  • Excluded staff: Catherine Bowman.

The task force has met four times so far, on July 20, August 8, September 1, and September 23. The main work of the task force to date has related to the selection of the outside consultant to conduct the review. The task force has identified the critical components that it wants to see in a Request for Services/Request for Proposals and hopes to finalize that document at its next meeting on Monday, October 24, then make plans to begin the search.

In my June 1 memo, I wrote that Keith Jeffers, an experienced human rights consultant, had been retained to conduct the review. The task force has since revisited that decision, and has determined that the consultant should be someone who has not done work for OPSEU before.

Please expect more updates on the work of the task force as it moves along.

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union

EB 16 – Executive Board – Emergency Resolution

WHEREAS the Executive Board has the responsibility and fiduciary obligation to develop and enforce the policies of the Union, and to act at all times in the best interests of the Union and its members;

AND WHEREAS the Union is an Employer of over 300 employees represented by two bargaining agents and excluded staff under employment contracts;

AND WHEREAS the Union has staffing policies related to harassment and discrimination, which were recently amended, and which are subject to annual review;

AND WHEREAS some members have made allegations that a toxic work environment exists in the Union, including allegations of systemic sexual harassment experienced by staff, culminating in sexual assault charges against one former staff member;

AND WHEREAS the members have alleged that a culture within OPSEU allowed this behavior to continue unaddressed for years;

AND WHEREAS the members’ allegations were recently reported by Canada’s largest media outlet, which may impact the Union’s operations on behalf of the members;

AND WHEREAS it is in the Union’s necessary interests to ensure that the allegations are fully addressed;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Executive Board will establish an ad hoc task force consisting of two officers, two Executive Board members, two OPSSU members, one ASU member, and one employee from the excluded staff;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the task force will review the Union’s staffing policies related to harassment and discrimination and will engage and direct an external independent consultant to conduct a review of OPSEU’s harassment and discrimination polices, complaint reporting processes, and workplace culture;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the consultant will report to the task force and the Executive Board; and

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the task force will be established immediately and the external review will be established to ensure that it does not prejudice legal or other processes that are currently underway.