OPSEU/SEFPO is well known as a social justice union – it’s at the very heart of what we do. Each year on February 20, OPSEU/SEFPO commemorates the World Day of Social Justice.
The UN has chosen “achieving social justice through formal employment” as this year’s theme. Employment plays a crucial role in reducing poverty, inequality and inequity.
So what does formal employment mean?
Formal jobs are those governed by a contract between an employer and an employee. However, 60 per cent of workers are precariously employed and don’t have access to formal jobs. That means no medical, health or retirement benefits.
Millions of Canadians are informal workers. They may be classified as “independent” or “gig” workers, and often lack the minimal protections provided under the Employment Standards Act.
They’re much more likely to be women, Indigenous, Black, racialized and from other equity-seeking groups, and to experience systemic barriers, exclusion, marginalization and exploitation at work and in society. They’ve also suffered disproportionately from the COVID-19 pandemic.
OPSEU/SEFPO works hard every single day to fight the injustices our members experience by negotiating contract language that ensures the principles of equity, diversity, inclusion and fairness are enshrined in collective agreements.
We’ve also been on the forefront of promoting social justice initiatives within Ontario and worldwide, including the union’s Social Justice and Live and Let Live Funds. Just last week, OPSEU/SEFPO donated $10,000 to the Jamaican High Commission in Ottawa to support organizations that provide education supplies to under-served children. OPSEU/SEFPO has long supported reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and embraces the vision of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“No justice, no peace” expresses a fundamental fact: as long as there are communities suffering injustice, there can be no real peace or security. If we want to encourage economic growth and prosperity for all, we must fight to eliminate all forms of social injustice.
That’s why unions have, and will continue to play a key role in building Canada’s economy. Because when workers are respected, they are most productive.
It’s in all of our best interests to ensure every Ontarian has access to formal work, and the ability to achieve their full potential. With a provincial election on the horizon, we must demand firm and concrete commitments from those running that they will support workers, and in particular, the most vulnerable – and then we must get out and vote for better.
OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer