I’ve been attending OPSEU Convention for four decades. Each has its own theme and personality. The 2012 Convention can be summed up by the following comments that came my way!
“Hey Smoke, how are you doing?”
“Pretty raucous in there, eh?”
All that I can say is: “Never been better”.
OPSEU is more alive and passionate than ever. We are truly a member driven union and that has always been my goal. We are, after all, owned by the members, for the members. I am proud to preside over a delegation that can engage in heated debate and then enjoy a few laughs and beverages together before returning to the floor to address the next piece of business done. To all of you who participated so thoughtfully and so passionately – thank you. I am so proud of us.
Special thanks go to First VP/Treasurer Eddy Almeida for having the courage to lead the debate. His first budget presentation was thoughtful, provocative and courageous. That is exactly the kind of leadership that perilous times call for.
With Convention 2012 in the rear view mirror it is time to look ahead and to appreciate what we have accomplished.
The tax fairness debate that OPSEU put on the public agenda was at the heart of a deal between the NDP and the Liberals to avoid an early trip to the polls. More than that, it was the deal breaker and the government blinked. We have to take pride in that. Our message on corporate tax cuts has resonated. It is the middle class, the working class, not the corporate elite who create wealth in this province.
If folks don’t have good jobs – if they don’t have money to spend – then the economy stalls. When the economy stalls the right wing calls for cuts to services and (our) jobs. That is why it is crucial that our message has to be heard. Based on what we have seen in the province’s budget talks our message is getting through.
The budget deal also calls for a jobs and prosperity council. OPSEU and the Steelworkers crafted this approach in a very public letter to the Premier. It will now be a reality. The goal will be to ensure that labour has a strong and reasoned voice on the council.
OPSEU also called for social assistance rate increases for the poor and vulnerable. This too has become a reality through the budget talks. We did this to ensure the quality of life for our families, neighbours and communities. We need to feel proud that we helped make this happen.
OPSEU also noted the proliferation of managers and the sky rocketing pay of executives. It is unconscionable that front line services are under attack while the politically well-connected elite fill their snouts at the public trough. How many health care professionals could be hired if the bosses’ salaries were halved?
After all, why should workers take decreases or lose jobs while these folks pad their bank accounts with sky high wages and bonuses? The Finance Minister has claimed to be powerless to roll back their contracts. We will remind Dwight Duncan of that when he targets the contracts of OPSEU members.
Sister and brothers, OPSEU is on the rise. We are a sophisticated, intelligent and fearless group. All of that was on display at Convention. It made my heart swell.
We are well positioned as we take on the challenges before us. These are dangerous, changing times. Our collective focus and strength places OPSEU in a great position to face these challenges. Remember, in peril there is opportunity!
Thank you for your leadership and commitment. Sisters and brothers I’ve never felt prouder. That’s because, as a union, we’ve never been better. United we win!
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President