Greetings Sisters, Brothers and Friends
As budget 2012 approaches, I have to admit I am feeling some pressure, excitement and a wee bit of anxiety.
Not only will this be my first budget presentation, but I am also recommending a dues increase. As stated before, I do not take this recommendation lightly. It troubles me to ask members to dig into their pockets. I know that all of us are under pressure to make ends meet. I know we all have commitments and obligations. So with an open mind I watched closely as both the provincial and federal finance ministers made their budget presentations March 27 and 29 respectively.
Neither minister offered anything that I want to mimic or imitate. Neither offered a reasonable solution to our current economic woes. Neither accepted responsibility for the mess they had created. Neither had really worked through these problems or completed full consultations to find efficiencies and savings without harming public services.
Both offered platitudes and then ducked for cover. Both took their wrath out on working people and the services we rely on. Both would not admit the obvious. Spending is not a problem. Revenue is.
So here is what we do know. Our right to bargain collectively will be attacked. Our hard earned pensions, for those who have them, will cost more, provide less and may even have legislated takeaways. The private sector will incrementally nudge out the public sector. We will have to conduct business with a proverbial gun to our head. We will have to reach deep into our resources to expose the truth and preserve the Ontario we want. My belief is that we will win the day.
On April 19, you or your representatives will have decision to make at Convention. I along with the majority of the Board am recommending that you approve the proposed dues levy.
The cost, while minimal, should not be taken lightly. It is tax deductible. It is temporary. It is reviewable in two years. You will also be able to check our progress through the quarterly reports which will be sent to local treasurers and to next year’s convention. And while the Board has proposed where the additional revenue is to be spent, Convention, as the ultimate authority in OPSEU, can make any direction for where the money will go, provided the amendments are supported by the majority of delegates present.
The motion about the levy will be introduced prior to the budget. The Constitution requires that any increase in dues be passed by a 2/3rds majority of the delegates present.
There may be some confusion about how dues is divided once collected by OPSEU. Dues gets deposited into the General Fund, unless otherwise mandated in the Constitution. The proposed levy will also be deposited into the General Fund. Of the total amount in the General Fund, our Constitution dictates that 5 percent must be allocated to the Strike Fund.
Delegates, by a majority vote, also have the ability to direct how funds in the General Fund or Strike Fund are used. This is, after all, your convention and you are in control. So as an example only, delegates could direct, by approval of a motion by simple majority, that a part of the Strike Fund be used to fund member efforts to fight the effects of the provincial budget. In a similar way specific allocations can be made to important union activities.
If the dues levy does not pass we will then be dealing with a deficit budget that will be subjected to the normal scrutiny. The deficit budget can only be balanced by service cuts or by going further into deficit.
Sisters, brothers and friends, together we carry a heavy burden. Together, I know that we will be good stewards of this union we love. We are one of the last lines of defense separating greed and fairness.
In the past year we have done much work together to mitigate the impact of the corporate agenda. Our President and leadership have been in the media as the sole voice of reason. We are moving the yardsticks. We are on the edge of something great, changing public opinion and making the politicians take note. We’ve already seen some politicians run and hide. We can be sure though that they can’t hide from the truth – that people are more important than profits.
At Convention 2012 we will make the right decision and whatever that decision is, I will implement it fully. That is what accountability is all about.
The ministers of finance should take a page from our book. People over politics. That is my guiding principle. That is my pledge.
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
First Vice-President/Treasurer, OPSEU