At heart, I think of myself as a cautious optimist. I like to hope to be the best, but I always prepare for the worst.
Sadly, most OPSEU members are now facing prospects close to the worst: another three years of falling further behind.
Mr. Ford’s government just passed a law that will leave most of you with less money in your pocket after you buy your groceries and pay your bills.
It’s called Bill 124 and it caps your wage increases at one per cent in each of the first three years of your next collective agreement. Inflation will almost certainly be more than one per cent in each of those three years, so while Mr. Ford boasts about four per cent annual increases in the private sector, he is actually cutting your pay.
It’s a terrible law, and I can promise you that we’re going to fight it with everything we’ve got. I’m confident we’ll win, but the fact is that the fight will take time. In the short term at least, most of us will have to worry about getting by with less.
I’ve even heard from some members who are worried that Bill 124 will also leave OPSEU having to get by with less. Since all of our revenue comes as a percentage of members’ salaries, they’re concerned that when their pay is cut, OPSEU is left weaker.
But as your First Vice-President/Treasurer, I’m proud to say that our finances have never been stronger.
Right now, I’m in the midst of preparing OPSEU’s next budget and I can tell you that we’re not going to have to cut back on any of our important work because of Mr. Ford and his hamfisted Bill 124.
We’ll be able to bargain as hard as ever. We’ll be able to defend our agreements as vigorously as always.
And we’ll be able to take the fight to Mr. Ford with even more force and conviction. We can invest record amounts in community campaigns and Queen’s Park lobby days that will leave the Conservatives quaking. We’ll force them to face the fact that they’ll soon be out of a job if they keep targeting public services and the workers who provide them.
How can we do more when Bill 124 seems to leave us with less?
For one thing, our revenues have never been higher – well north of $100 million. That’s because of the excellent work being done by our members and our organizing staff to attract more members than we’ve ever had.
We’re known as the best union in the province and that’s because of each and every one of you. Your friends, your family members, and people working in the same field as you – they all see the strength and security you have in OPSEU, and they want it for themselves, too.
That’s why our membership is 165,000 and growing. With each new member, we become stronger.
We’re also strong because of our discipline. During my time as First Vice-President/Treasurer, I’ve focused on making sure that we get the maximum value out of every dollar we spend.
Sometimes, that means I have to say no. But before the no, I always say how – how can we get this done more effectively and more inexpensively?
Because when we do that, we can always afford to do all of the important work we have to do no matter what.
And that means we can always afford to seek the best and still be prepared for the worst.
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
Ontario Public Service Employees Union