Accountability yes! Austerity no!


Attacks on the rights of working people continue as we head towards the 2012 OPSEU Convention.

To this end, the austerity movement, with its right wing supporters, manipulate the truth and twist reality. Through this misrepresentation they have connected the world economic crisis to the unrealistic demands of greedy unions. What a trap this has set for the public given that these unrealistic demands are actually reasonable needs. 

What is so wrong with a liveable wage and a decent pension? What’s the problem with safe working conditions that lessen the possibility of workplace injury or illness? How could these needs have driven the world to the brink of economic default? Nonsense!

Unscrupulous and vengeful employers are taking advantage of this rhetoric. Their target is the trade union movement, an institution that supports the hopes and dreams of the middle class. We are all in their crosshairs given that democratic unions are made from the strength and commitment of union members.

Recently, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford laid out his direct attack on working people. He threatened to impose a contract that would steal job security and dignity from the members of CUPE 416. His bully tactics resonated with the right wing ideologues. In fact, they praised him for the tactics he utilized against unionized workers who had done nothing more than come to the bargaining table to negotiate a fair and reasonable deal.

Ideology superseded financial issues. The final imposed contract included a provision stipulating that the City of Toronto would no longer collect union dues, a clear violation of the Rand formula, the principle won by unions in the 1940s that all members of an organized bargaining unit must pay union dues, whether they are formally members of the union or not.

And why did Ford do this? Simple: money is power. He figured he could break the union by undermining their finances. 

So far OPSEU has yet to face these management tactics. With the Drummond Report to be released on February 15, and a controlling right wing of the Liberal caucus calling the shots, can similar tactics be in our future? Keep in mind that we also have a minority government, with the Tories itching to take power. Can we expect any less from the likes of Hudak?

I came to office promising accountability and good value for your hard earned dues dollars. I was committed to asking the tough questions. I promised a full review of our operations. Job done!

Believe me when I say that, “there are no quarters under the cushions.”

This should come as no surprise given that OPSEU has been fighting back since the Harris years. We know battles cost money. We also know prices have gone up even though our dues rate has stayed flat since May, 2001.

With troubled waters ahead I am asking for your support, understanding and solidarity. We must show employers we will do whatever it takes to protect our jobs and the services we provide to Ontarians. Protecting jobs and services assures a future for our families and communities.

OPSEU is an unbelievable machine. Working together with President Smokey Thomas and the Executive Board has been a privilege. Witnessing the amazing things that we accomplish on a daily basis is incredible. We are fuelled by commitment and solidarity. We are also fuelled by dollars. Money is power and for the foreseeable future our union must be running on all cylinders.

My message to members (and employers) is simply this: the future is not built on cutbacks. Accountability yes! Austerity no!   

In solidarity,

Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
First Vice-President/Treasurer, OPSEU

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