Our jobs are vital, but remember those who’ve lost their jobs



As we head into the Family Day weekend, please spare a thought for all of our friends, neighbours and their families who have lost so much during this pandemic.

More than 6,000 families are grieving the loss of loved ones. Sadly, that includes the family of Connie Cerdan, an OPSEU/SEFPO Local 597 member who passed away from the virus in early January. Sister Connie and her family continue to be in our prayers.

Each of these deaths is a terrible tragedy. I’m sure I’m speaking for all of us when I offer my deepest condolences.

I’d also like to extend our solidarity and support to the hundreds of thousands of families who have lost everything: their jobs, businesses, homes and hope.

In sectors like retail, hospitality, and tourism – it’s been employment carnage.

It’s hard to wrap your head around all the collateral damage associated with these lockdowns.

While tens of thousands of our members have sacrificed on the front lines, these sometimes forgotten folks have had to give up everything to support the lockdown governments have had to impose.

And they had no say. No union to support them. No voice. No choice. They too have made enormous sacrifice for the greater good.

And thousands of businesses have been forced to close their doors, many of them permanently. Gone forever.

All told, the province now has around 200,000 fewer jobs than it did this time last year. The provincial unemployment rate is now roughly nine per cent. That’s nearly double what it was before the pandemic. And each of those job losses were contributors to the economy, both in terms of taxes and stimulus.

Sadly, the majority who’ve lost their jobs were already vulnerable – workers who are young, women, disabled, Black, Indigenous, or racialized.

Those who’ve suffered worst were already suffering. They were in jobs that were precarious or low-waged. They were living paycheque to paycheque. And now, those paycheques are gone.

I’ve said proudly from the start that our union’s members are heroes in this pandemic. But let’s remember we are all in this together.

So, I call on all of our great union’s staff and members to, even amidst enormous challenges, consider our blessings.

The vast majority of us have had the good fortune to maintain our employment, to have a weekly paycheque and to keep the wolf from the door.

Many of us have had the mixed blessing of working from home to stay safe and to positively affect the safety of our communities.

I’m proud to say that as an employer, OPSEU/SEFPO has kept all of our staff on payroll including those whose duties shrunk immensely through no fault of their own.

I also want to again personally thank the staff who have selflessly gone above and beyond. I know who you are.

So, as we move forward please support the small, local businesses down the street. They need us now more than ever.

And we need them to keep the economy going to help pay for the excellent public services Ontarians rely upon.

So, if you’ve got enough for you and your family, think about what you can do to help struggling families in your community.

Donate. Volunteer. Order folks a meal.

Check in to help friends make their rent or mortgage if you’re able.

Stay strong and stick together. We are a community. We are a family.

if history has taught me anything, there will again come a day when we have to reach out to the broader community to support the work we do should a cost-cutting government look to balance the books on our backs.

Solidarity my friends. Solidarity.

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, OPSEU/SEFPO

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