Summer is here!
For most Canadians, it’s a time to take a break, spend more time with friends and family, and slow down. That’s good, because our union has been pushing at top speed for a long time now. I’m guessing we could all use some rest.
It’s been an incredible year so far. We’ve accomplished a lot. As things slow down for the summer, it’s a great time to celebrate our successes.
I won’t attempt to list all we’ve done since January 1. Back then, our fightback around the crisis in corrections was at a fever pitch. Through that campaign, we won commitments from the government for new staffing, and metal detectors to keep our members safe. We’ve made that employer listen.
At our Convention in April, delegates committed our union to a major fightback against privatization — the ongoing selloff of the work our members do and the assets that belong to all of us. We are just putting plans in place for the “We own it!” campaign now. Once it starts, it is going to make a huge impact.
What else? Well, as I write this, we are in the middle of the biggest union certification vote in Canadian history. It was 10 months ago that we started organizing part-time support staff in the community colleges. Now, thousands of Ontarians are getting a chance to make their voices heard. They’re getting a chance to join OPSEU. I am confident they will.
Earlier this year, Queen’s Park started talking about closing our provincial and demonstration schools. OPSEU members provide top-quality education for children with disabilities in those schools, and we fought back. As a result, those schools will be open for the 2016-17 school year. That gives us another full year to keep up the fight to keep them open for good. I know we can win.
In May, the province announced it would close nine ServiceOntario offices around Ontario. We joined forces with our communities and fought back. Result? The closures have been put on hold. At least one Liberal MPP, Harinder Takhar, has broken ranks with his own government. He’s standing with his community to demand that their publicly run ServiceOntario centre stay open.
Just last week, we bargained a new collective agreement for 1400 members at the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation.
And while Premier Kathleen Wynne is more than happy to claim credit for the expansion of the Canada Pension Plan, announced this week, we all know the truth: it was the Canadian labour movement that put that issue on the agenda. It was working people – from coast to coast to coast – who worked hard for years to make it happen. And our union, and our National Union, played a big part in that.
It has been a good 2016. I’m not saying we’ve won every battle, or that the fight is over. For example, it’s good to know that Premier Wynne and the influential Toronto Star support our plan to protect public safety by selling marijuana, once it is legalized, through the LCBO. But I’m also aware that thousands of casuals at the LCBO can’t get a paid sick day. So yes, there is still a lot to do.
Sometimes, though, it’s good to sit back and look at what you’ve done. And looking back on 2016, I can only say “wow.” We’ve done a tremendous amount of work. That work has made real progress – not just for OPSEU members, but for our communities, too. We are making our voices heard. We are making a difference.
So take a bow, OPSEU. And take a break this summer.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union