Regional Education Course Descriptions

The following is a list of longer courses (one day or more) available for regional educational events. The words “New” or “Revised” in a course description, indicate that the course has been developed and piloted, or revised within the last year.

To find out which courses are being offered in your region, check the course schedule page. Note: Information on the schedule of regional courses may be incomplete. Members should contact their regional offices for details of educational opportunities in their areas.

Click on the desired course name in the menu on the right to be taken to the course description.
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Revised – Human Rights, Union Rights and Global Solidarity

(October 2015) Faced with governments pushing austerity around the world, global solidarity is more important than ever. Why do we find ourselves fighting the same fights fought more than 30, 50 or even 100 years ago?

This extensively revised course explores what our roles are as individuals, union members, and community citizens, in the ongoing fight for fairness, equality and justness.

Throughout the day and a half session, participants will draw critical links between human rights, union rights and global solidarity, and will be asked to commit to collective action to build solidarity locally and globally. By the end of the course, participants will be able to recognize and challenge privilege and oppression, know the differences between charity and solidarity, and will be better able to challenge the current austerity agenda.

Overall Goal
Participants will draw critical links between human rights, union rights and global solidarity, and commit to collective action to build solidarity locally and globally.

Learning Objectives
Participants will

  • Identify and analyze the links between local and global human rights and labour struggles
  • Identify and challenge privilege and oppression
  • Distinguish the difference between charity and solidarity actions
  • Practice difficult conversations on equity and global solidarity
  • Commit to getting involved in a concrete, collective act of solidarity on a labour or human rights struggle.

New – Stewards 3: Dealing with Discipline

(September 2015) This is an advanced level steward course. It is suggested that participants take Stewards 1 and Stewards 2 prior to signing up for this program.

Dealing with Discipline is a skills and knowledge focused workshop that will assist union activists in their duties representing members that are facing discipline up to and including dismissal. The course bridges concepts from Stewards 1 and 2, Basic and Advanced Grievance Handling and Workplace Investigations. Participants should bring their Collective Agreements to the course.

Advanced Grievance Handling for Union Building

Does your local have a grievance committee? Can your experience in handling a grievance help to build the local? Can you use your knowledge of common grievance issues to raise awareness at demand setting meetings? Have you ever thought of what it is like to be on the Employer side of the table? These are some of the topics that will be explored in the NEW Advanced Grievance Handling for Union Building course. You will also get the opportunity to practice being on the Union’s team and the Employer’s Team as you work through some scenarios. Building on the Basic Grievance Handling for Union Building course, this course focuses on expanding both the steward’s and Local’s ability to process grievances from start to finish. Through active interviewing process, participants will explore how to identify grievances, practice negotiating settlements and draft realistic, enforceable grievance settlements.  Participants should bring their Collective Agreements to the course.

Advancing Union Issues through Labour Management Committees

Often union-side members become cynical about labour management committee work because the employer refuses to meet, or follow through on action. This course aims to strengthen skills of labour management committees to solve workplace problems and build the union, whether management is cooperating or not. A variety of activities are used to clarify the union-building potential of LMC’s, to assess the effectiveness of a labour management committee, and to strengthen skills to move a workplace complaint to resolution at the LMC. Attention is paid to a) arguing an issue; b) addressing management tactics; c) using the LMC to communicate with members; d) strategies to mobilize members to back LMC work; e) connecting LMC work to bargaining and mobilizing work in the Local. Bring Your Collective Agreement to this course.

Basic Grievance Handling for Union Building

This course is designed to examine the grievance process from a workplace organizing perspective.  Grievances are opportunities to build the union.  This hands-on course helps members analyze situations to decide whether a grievance is the best approach.  They will learn about different types of grievances and the remedies available through the grievance/arbitration process.  They will develop technical skills in writing, processing grievances and practice communication to assess whether a member’s rights have been violated.  Participants should bring their Collective Agreements to the course.

BPS Benefits and Appeals: Helping Members Navigate through the Fine Print

Benefits are increasingly under attack from employers, insurers, the media and government.  It’s time to protect these hard won working conditions.  The BPS Benefits and Appeals course examines internal and external benefits and the many interactions they have with workers day to day lives.  Additionally, the course provides skills for the union activist to support members in understanding and navigating their particular benefit situation.  Lastly, the course explores what we can do as a union to defend and strengthen our collective agreements and the social safety net from current attacks. Participants should bring their benefits booklets and Collective Agreements to the course.

Important NoteThis course is not intended to create local benefits experts that do appeals.  The course is intended to increase awareness and develop skills of local leaders to help support members with their benefits appeal issues.

Building your Community through Political Action

What do you know about the political climate in your municipality, in Ontario, in Canada? How do you identify the current issues in your community? Do you have the confidence to speak to someone about an issue that you consider very political? Can you use your power of communication to raise awareness of a subject that is making an impact on your life? Do you know the players in the political arena? How do you find the right persons to speak with?

These are some of the topics that will be explored in the NEW Building your Community through Political Action course. You will get the opportunity to practice mingling with others while chatting about topics of interest. You will find out how and when to lobby or protest and demonstrate how to lobby a group on a topic that is of interest to you. This course will also build your confidence and take you through some strategies you can use to influence others and elicit change for all. (This generic course will be updated by regional offices to reflect current local political realities.)

Challenging Bullying and Non-Code-Based Harassment in the Workplace

Is bullying and psychological harassment an issue in your workplace? This course will help you recognize the signs of bullying and a toxic workplace. We’ll look at case law and other tools helpful in understanding the impact of workplace bullying. And we’ll strengthen individual and collective capacity to respond to co-workers, and pressure employers to tackle this issue.

Challenging Discrimination in Everyday Union Work

This course looks at everyday situations in our workplaces and union where inequality and racism are at work, and where people can take effective action. It uses case scenarios and analysis to examine different forms of discrimination – race, gender, age and disability – and its divisive effects. And it draws from videos and role play to get people to practice responding practically to situations.  The course helps us to see equity and human rights as basic union work for all. And it strengthens our skills as effective allies and advocates to build more inclusive workplaces and locals.

Cross-Cultural Communication at Work: A Union Perspective

In our workplaces, unions, and communities, we experience daily interactions with diverse groups including co-workers, and our union sisters and brothers. There are moments when these interactions lead to miscommunication, and misunderstanding about cultural expressions and social cues. In order to work through some of these communication challenges, an introductory course, Cross-Cultural Communication has been designed. Participants will work through case scenarios to develop strategies designed to improve their cross-cultural communication.

Dealing with Workplace Conflict

Everyday, in our lives, we have to deal with situations of conflict.  It may be with our family, our work colleagues, our friends, our peers or our supervisors.  In this 1 ½ day course we will define and analyse conflict and look at the range of processes aimed at alleviating or eliminating sources of conflict. There are many tools available to persons in conflict. How and when they are used depends on several factors that will be perused.  We will also look at mediation and its role in conflict resolution.

Duty to Accommodate: A Tool for Inclusive Workplaces

Provincial legislation and existing case law require employers and unions to provide accommodation short of undue hardship.

This interactive course examines the roles and responsibilities of the employer, the union and the member in accommodating members with disabilities and all other protected groups under the Ontario Human Rights Code. It builds activists’ skills to support members requiring an accommodation, and to deal with employer resistance to accommodation in the workplace. (March 2010)

Duty to Accommodate 2: Making Accommodation Work

Does your employer balk at providing proper accommodations? Has your employer challenged the medical information the member has provided? Is the employer asking members for independent medical exams? Do you hear grumblings from co-workers about the number of accommodations in the workplace?

Building on the skills and information in the first course, “Duty to Accommodate: A tool for inclusive workplaces”, Making Accommodation Work: Duty to Accommodate 2 examines the challenges of supporting a worker in need of an accommodation. This course investigates strategies and skills for gathering information, challenging employer tactics used to prevent accommodations, developing a fair accommodation plan, and communicating with co-workers to build more workplace solidarity.

While the course focuses mainly on the practical aspects of accommodation due to disability, many of the issues such as collective agreement language, attendance management programs, co-worker resentment apply to accommodation based on sex and family status as well.

Note: Due to the volume of information about Duty to Accommodate, it is strongly advised that participants take “Duty to Accommodate: A Tool for Inclusive Workplaces” before Duty to Accommodate 2.

Follow the Money: A First Course in Public Economics

Are you worried about your economic future and that of your children? Are you frustrated by the growing gap between the soaring wages of CEO’s and the stagnant take-home pay of your family? As a union member and a public employee, are you surprised that you have somehow become “the problem”?

Follow the Money: A First course in Public Economics takes you on a guided tour of today’s economy. We’ll examine who runs it and who doesn’t. We’ll discuss what this all means for people, public services and the planet. We’ll look at how economics is tied up with politics and the role played by corporate power and public relations. Lastly, we’ll draw some inspiration from folks who are fighting for a fair economy and identify what we can do to be part of those struggles in our locals and communities. The course has 6 modules which can be taught separately in meetings or local events.

Health and Safety:  Level One

This course is designed for members and stewards who want to become more involved in health and safety activities in their workplace. There is a strong focus on health and safety legislation to enable participants to use the legislation effectively in their own workplaces. Participants work in groups to explore the legislation and to gain a better understanding of their rights and employers’ obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations. Participants are introduced to the concepts of hazard identification, assessment and control and develop a greater understanding of the components of an effective health and safety system.

Health and Safety: Level Two

This course is designed for Health and Safety committee members and union activists with a strong interest in Health and Safety. Participants learn how to be more effective members of their JHSC’s as they work in small groups learning how to better identify, categorize, and control hazards. Using case studies and examples from their own workplaces, participants learn how to improve workplace inspections, and how to begin accident and illness investigations. The course offers the opportunity to prioritize and strategize around health and safety problems and to address problems specific to participants’ own workplaces. The course builds on the material in OPSEU’s Level 1 course and assumes that participants have a basic knowledge of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Health and Safety: Level Three

This course builds on concepts covered in OPSEU Health and Safety Level 1 and 2. OPSEU Health and Safety Level 3 is designed to help union activists, worker joint health and safety committee members, health and safety representatives, and workers to address complex hazards using their local health and safety systems and external resources. Drawing from their own experiences, participants will strategize effective approaches to complex hazards, such as investigating concerns about potential occupational cancers and ergonomic hazards. Participants will also learn basic approaches to investigating indoor air quality complaints. They will discuss the precautionary principle and the ALARA principle and understand the centrality of these two concepts in health and safety activism. Participants will develop strategies to address ergonomic hazards, develop recommendations and practice facing the employer to propose their recommendations, enhancing their organization skills and confidence to represent members in their efforts to achieve safer and healthier workplaces. (September 2010)

The Indigenous Journey: Walking Together

Would you like to learn more about Indigenous peoples? Do you know that the First Nation, Inuit and Métis peoples have differences in their traditions, beliefs, communities and cultural identities as well as some commonalities?

Through activities, inspired by the teachings and traditions of Indigenous peoples, we will take you through an overview of the lives of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples as well as allow you an opportunity to share in some of their stories. You will take a journey of examining both historical and current relationships between Indigenous people and governments within Canada and the world today.

If you would like to share in the rich history of Indigenous peoples and spend time understanding why being an ally is important, this course will offer that opportunity.

Interpreting Your Collective Agreement: An Activist’s Role

Do you know what your collective agreement is? Do you have a copy of it? Have you ever wondered what is in your collective agreement and how to find information on different articles? Do you know how the collective agreement is structured? Are you confused by some of the terms used in it?

In this newly revised version of the Contract Interpretation course members will be assisted in understanding the power of their collective agreement and how to interpret and enforce their collective agreement. Using interpretation guidelines developed through case law, participants will build the skills and confidence needed to understand and use their collective agreements. Activities will give participants an opportunity to review legislation, examine the importance of timelines, discuss case scenarios and debate some common clauses and what they mean. Participants should bring their Collective Agreements to the course.

Labour History: Strategies for Today Through the Lens of the Past

This is an introductory course examining the issues facing members in their union, locals and workplaces today. The course will explore how these issues have been approached in the past and the outcomes. Potential topics include; health and safety, working conditions, bargaining, equity, globalization and the environment. By examining the actions of OPSEU, the labour movement and individual workers, participants will devise strategies and skills to address current and future challenges. This course replaces Labour History Parts One and Two.

LEC Leadership & Team Development: A Course for Local Executive Committees to Take Together

Have you ever returned from a union course with great ideas for improving your local and been met with, at best, blank stares? This course is based on the assumption that LEC teams can benefit from training and planning together to build inclusive, effective locals. It emerges from the experience of OPSEU’s Building Local Capacity Project.

4-6 people from an LEC register together and participate in this course with 4 or 5 other LEC groupings. The course is a working session for LECs to clarify their individual and collective roles as local leaders, to develop a comprehensive picture of their units and workplaces, and to assess the functioning of their Local. Based on that assessment, LEC’s will begin to develop action plans, which include using a range of OPSEU resources. The final session on “Practising Shared Leadership” provides tools for improving the ways the LEC works together to address common Local problems. (December 2009)

Let’s Start Meeting Like This! Running Meetings that Build the Union

Have you ever been confused at meetings about when you can speak and when you can’t? Perhaps you have tried to run a meeting where there was no quorum, or where people kept interrupting each other and getting off track. Maybe you’re discouraged because you’re not sure how to make meetings a good use of anyone’s time. This course examines the potential of meetings to tap into diverse members’ energy and interest, and to build union capacity. Practical, hands-on activities will help you a) develop an interesting agenda and get members to the meeting; b) understand how to write and put forward a motion and use basic rules of parliamentary procedure effectively; c) facilitate an effective meeting discussion; d) deal with meeting “nightmares” who often look like members who won’t stop talking, or who can’t agree. Materials include templates for committee reports and meeting minutes, as well as step by step guidelines on running different kinds of meetings.

Local Treasurers Course

This course is aimed at Local Treasurers and Trustees who are either NEW to the role or experienced members who are seeking a “refresher course”. The goal is to give the necessary tools and education to Local Treasurers and Trustees in order for them to fulfill their roles in the Local. It will also draw on members’ experiences to solve problems occurring with the administration of Local funds.

Making Composite Locals Work

Composite/Multi-unit Locals can be very challenging and complex locals to organize and run.

Difficulties with communication, and membership coordination are among the barriers that often prevent these locals from being inclusive and achieving their full potential. This course provides an opportunity for an in-depth working session for local executive committees of composite or multi- unit locals.

Participants will develop clear roles and responsibilities as local leaders, prepare an appropriate budget, develop local structures, and will assess the functioning of their local and its" units. Based on the work from the course, the local executives will begin to develop action plans to implement in their local.

Note: This course is not designed for individuals coming from different locals. Participants who register should be complete LEC groups that are working together to build strength in their units and ultimately the local.

Mental Health: Challenging the Stigma in the Workplace

As workers and labour activists, we are faced with economic, social, and political changes in our workplaces that impact our mental wellbeing on a daily basis. We all respond differently to situations that impact our lives and subsequently, our mental health.

This introductory course explores mental health, mental health concerns, and stigma in the workplace. Some of the topics covered in this course include: demystifying mental health; individual, union, and employer responsibilities; member-to-member issues; and some strategies to challenge stigma and build inclusion.

The OPSEU Story: Building our Union Together

The history of OPSEU is rich and varied. Our union has evolved from a Civil Service Association to a powerful force in the labour movement. To understand how OPSEU works today, and will be a force in the future, we need to understand how we arrived where we are at now.

This labour history course will examine how OPSEU began; how it evolved from a staff association to a full-fledged union; how social unionism and equity are a vital part of OPSEU; and how our past will help us to continue to make OPSEU a strong part of the labour movement in the future.

Public Speaking – Finding your voice, connecting with your audience

Have you ever felt intimidated when you are a speaker in front of a large group? Have you ever wondered what you need to consider when planning and preparing a short presentation for the public?

Whether you"d like to strengthen your presentation skills, look more confident and credible, define your core message, organize your thoughts, or find new and effective ways to collaborate with your team, this course will give you practical skills you need to communicate successfully. You will have an opportunity to practice and hone your presentation skills in a small group setting while concentrating on your message and target audience.

Reducing the Gap: The Importance of Pay Equity in Union Work

Would you be surprised to learn that women in Ontario still earn 29% less than men? Reducing the Gap: The Importance of Pay Equity in Union Work provides participants with information on what pay equity is, the struggle to achieve pay equity, why it is important to us, and where we are in the struggle today. This interactive course will develop practical skills in the recognition of employer tactics to stall or limit pay equity implementation and maintenance. Participants will also be able to practice skills in speaking to co-workers and others on the topic of pay equity and why it is important to them. Note: This course is not training to negotiate pay equity plans.

Social Media for Union Activists

The increasing use of social media has become a reality in our union work. With this reality, come both pitfalls and opportunities. "Social Media for Union Activists" will explore what social media is and how to spot both the opportunities and difficulties when using social media.

Recognizing that social media is an important part of many of our members lives, participants will examine what risks are inherent when using social media and what case law has been telling us. Participants will explore what makes a successful social media campaign and develop some practical applications for social media use within Locals. Upon completing the course participants will be able to confidently use social media in their union work.

Stewards 1: Making a Difference in the Workplace

This updated version (March 2015) of Stewards 1 includes a more detailed description and history of OPSEU's equity-seeking groups. The course continues to support stewards through a range of tools and practical activities. The key aims are to strengthen steward skills to orient a new employee to the union, have effective one-on-one conversations with a cross-section of members, develop a communications strategy to enlist diverse member involvement, and develop approaches to everyday workplace problems. Throughout the course, participants are supported as they develop a profile of their members, clarify the tasks of the steward, find the resources and information in OPSEU, and understand the grievance process and their role in it. Stewards 1 is a prerequisite to Stewards 2 and must be completed before taking Stewards 2. Participants should bring their collective agreements.

Stewards 2: Facing the Employer, Building Member Involvement

Prerequisite: Stewards 1
This revised follow-up to Stewards 1 focuses on investigating and writing a grievance, facing management, and involving members in worksite action. Participants will use their own collective agreements to identify grievances. They will become immersed in an evolving case study in order to interview a grievor, write up a grievance, face the employer at a step 1 and make a presentation on safety issues to the union side of the Joint Health and Safety Committee. They will examine the elements of effective mobilization and develop a campaign strategy for a local. Participants should bring their collective agreements.

Stewards Orientation (1-day course)

This one-day course provides new stewards with the tools to create a profile of the diverse members the steward represents, and an understanding of the questions to pursue after the course. Participants will receive a basic orientation to the role of stewards and other LEC members, and will develop an understanding of the structure of OPSEU. Information about key union resources will be provided, as well as options for resolving workplace issues, including the steps of the grievance process and common labour terms and vocabulary. This course is also available in French.

Union Skills for Workplace Investigations

Have you ever been called, at the last minute, to the employer’s office to “represent” a member who is being accused of serious wrong-doings? Have you wondered what to do and how best to represent this person, particularly if you suspect that they may have broken a rule or two? This hands-on course takes you step by step, through a workplace investigations process. It starts with the first contact with the member through to the response to the investigation findings, with lots of practice in between. Through case studies and a variety of active exercises, you’ll practise interviewing the member, anticipating the investigator’s questions, preparing the member for meeting the investigator, taking good notes at the meeting, and working with the member to respond to the findings. The Resource Toolkit has additional information about investigations in different sectors, use of surveillance and other issues.

Union Strategies for Attendance Management Programs

Are the employees in your workplace under assault from the employer’s attendance management program? Do you find yourself responding to issues such as medical notes being denied, requests for independent medical exams, last chance agreements being offered, and members being threatened with non-disciplinary dismissal?

This course examines why Attendance Management Programs exist, how these programs are supposed to be run, employer motivations, and strategies to challenge the employer. By examining their own workplace situations, participants will be able to identify inconsistencies between workplace policies and program implementation, as well as become skilled at recognizing unfair attendance management practices. Through a series of interactive exercises participants will develop strategies to defend members and build the locals capacity to challenge unfair and poorly implemented Attendance Management Programs. Participants should bring their Collective Agreements to the course.

Women in Activism: Staying Connected

(June 2014) Are you a woman who wants to get involved in your Union but you are uncertain as to where and how to begin? Have you wondered how activists got into the position they are in and why they got involved? Do you have the energy and interest but lack the confidence in getting yourself elected to a position? Then this is a course for you.

This new course will take you through the journey of successful women in unions and the political arena, how they got there and what they have achieved. You will understand your role as an activist gain confidence in taking the first steps and feel motivated in encouraging others to do the same. You will review your own time management strategies and work out a schedule for yourself.

Through scenarios, role-play, interactive videos and checklists, you will understand the issues women have faced over the years; some of which still continue today. You will learn how to build on these wins to make further inroads for women.

Suggested Pre-requisite – one elected activist and one partner who is not elected (take a closer look at who you may want to bring). This can be an encouragement to mentor others.

Women in Unions: Strengthening Leadership

This course offers seasoned women activists a chance to analyse the advances and barriers to diverse women’s leadership in the union. Through case studies of common problems women face in the workplace and union, the course explores issues of power, privilege, equity and effective action. It offers the chance to develop practical strategies for strengthening diverse women’s leadership and building an inclusive union. It will also focus on ways to strengthen women’s committees and gatherings in our locals and regions.

Women in Unions: Getting Involved

This course is for diverse women who are just getting involved in OPSEU, who want to know how things work and how they can make a difference in the union. Participants will bring their own experience of the workplace, community and union to develop an analysis of what"s needed in their locals, and how they can contribute to building an inclusive union. Through hands-on activities, women will practise making their voices heard, and will develop strategies for supporting the involvement of other diverse women in the union.

Publication Date: 

Friday, September 19, 2014 (All day)