For 100 years now, International Women's Day has been celebrated around the world. In North America, it started when women workers marched through the streets of New York City demanding shorter working hours, voting rights, better pay and the end to child labour. This annual event also is a time to celebrate improvements made for working women everywhere.
Within OPSEU, I’m proud that we’ve made great strides with respect to gender equality and diversity in recent years. Working for women’s equity is a big part of our continuing leadership on human rights. In 2008, we broke new ground with the beginning of the “Social Mapping Project.” It is the first quantitative and qualitative survey of a union’s membership and staff focused exclusively on equity issues. Related recommendations from a membership systems review should be available soon for review by the Executive Board. By working with the recommendations we can create a solid implementation plan to make sure that all equity-seeking groups have greater access and the ability to participate in their union.
In November 2011, we will be holding our biennial Women’s Conference which brings together over a hundred working women from across Ontario. The biggest goals of the conference? Encourage women’s leadership; provide opportunities for women to support key feminist issues and to highlight the ways women can strategize to help build our equity agenda.
Finally, OPSEU continues to offer a range of equity training programs – from courses on the duty to accommodate, bullying, international human rights issues, as well as harassment and discrimination training for Advisors and Investigators under our Harassment and Discrimination Prevention Policy.
On this year's special 100th anniversary of International Women's Day, we must commit ourselves to deepening our role in the struggle for equal rights, dignity and respect for all working women. We can best do this by supporting a feminist perspective in our fight to maintain and promote good jobs. We must also stand in solidarity with our Provincial Women’s Committee to ensure the rights of women are advanced within and through our Union.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President
Ontario Public Service Employees Union