OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas has sent the message below to all delegates, alternates and observers to the 2016 OPSEU Convention.
June 1, 2016
Memo to: OPSEU Executive Board Members and Convention delegates, alternates and observers
From: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President
Subject: Updating you on the implementation of our emergency resolution from Convention
As you know, delegates to the 2016 OPSEU Convention voted in favour of an Emergency Resolution that required our union to take certain steps with respect to harassment and discrimination in OPSEU workplaces. Resolution EB16 was put forward by the Executive Board, and after a full and at times emotional debate on the floor of Convention it received the support of more than 98 per cent of delegates.
The full text of resolution EB16 is included below for your reference. I am writing to provide an update on our progress towards implementing it.
Essentially, the resolution calls on the union to:
- establish a task force to review OPSEU’s workplace policies with respect to harassment and discrimination;
- engage an external consultant to review those policies as well as OPSEU’s complaint reporting processes and workplace culture; and
- ensure that the review does not interfere with ongoing administrative and criminal matters related to allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination and sexual assault.
So far, we have taken the following steps:
- The Executive Board has named its four representatives to the task force. They are Regional Vice-Presidents Debbie Tungatt (Region 2) and Sara Labelle (Region 3), and Executive Board Members Ed Arvelin (Region 7) and Chrisy Tremblay (Region 4). All four bring invaluable perspectives on harassment and discrimination from their professional experience and their union experience as well.
- Initial discussions have been held with our two staff unions. We are waiting for the Ontario Public Service Staff Union, representing frontline OPSEU staff, and the Administrative Staff Union, representing unionized management, to name their representatives. As soon as those names are known the task force will begin its work.
- OPSEU has engaged Keith Jeffers as the independent consultant for the review. Mr. Jeffers is a former Assistant Deputy Minister with the Ontario government and has 25 years’ experience in “employment equity and diversity, change management and strategic human resources management.” Learn more about him and his company, Employment Matters Consulting, here.
That is all there is to report for now. Thank you for being part of the debate at Convention. I will update you when there is more news about this important initiative.
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.