The last year was a busy one for OPSEU, from start to finish.
In 2016, we bargained a ton of contracts. We enforced collective agreements in the workplace and at arbitration. We lobbied MPPs. We spoke to legislative committees. We took part in government consultations. We challenged employers in the courts and at the Human Rights Tribunal. We organized new members. We educated members to build skills and deepen their understanding of issues. We promoted our views through paid advertising. And we laid the foundation for the biggest anti-privatization campaign in Canadian history.
Challenges were laid in front of us, and we came back with an effective, coordinated response.
Above all, we spoke out at every opportunity. I can’t begin to count the number of interviews I did in 2016 with reporters from print, radio, and TV outlets. When I wasn’t talking to the media, I was addressing an incredible diversity of people: from frontline OPSEU members to sector leaders, from students to CEOs.
I think it’s safe to say OPSEU has a pretty high public profile these days. People know who we are. When we talk, they listen. And that is making a difference for all OPSEU members and the services we deliver.
We are working in a very tough environment these days. It is now eight years since the Great Recession hit. It is seven years since governments around the world decided that the costs of that private-sector train wreck would be paid for by cutting public services and attacking public employees.
Throughout that time, our union has never stopped fighting. We’ve proved, over and over, that when it comes to defending working people and the public services we all depend on, there is no substitute for a good, strong union.
If you want to know what we did in 2016, some of our successes are listed here. But even our web site – with over 1,000 items posted – doesn’t show a fraction of the work we did over the year. That’s because so much of the work our union does is in the workplace and in our locals. That’s where thousands of stewards and Local Executive Committee members are devoting their time and energy to representing all OPSEU members. To those member activists, and to the union staff who support them, I say a big “thank you.”
Because of your work, we had a great year.
As we turn the corner into 2017, we are set to do even better. There are many big challenges ahead – there always are. But I know we will overcome every single one.
We will have a great year in 2017, too.
The holiday season is an ideal time to reflect on the year past and rest up for the one ahead. On behalf of myself, First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, and the entire Executive Board of OPSEU, have a safe and wonderful time.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union