With late fall the days get shorter and the nights get longer. It is also a season when what remains of my hair becomes a little greyer. Why? It is budget time. As 1st vice president / treasurer this is the focus of my office.
It is not an easy task. Setting the financial blueprint for 2014 demands considerable, planning, consultation and patience. There is a lot to consider.
It's important to get our organizational priorities straight. We must plan ahead to have needed resources for anticipated and surprise attacks. We must ensure the union remains financially sound and built on a strong foundation. While campaigns, strikes and other challenges come and go, the day-to-day responsibilities of our union carry on.
Unlike the federal and provincial governments, I will not make a speech from the throne where priorities such as cable bundling and cell phone discounts dominate.
This blog will have to do the job instead. The message I have is simple but powerful.
Do you remember a time when our politicians thought and spoke about "the big picture?" Today, that kind of nation building is part of the distant past. Who needs a national daycare program or stronger public services when instead we can get the Golf Channel without having to purchase the History Channel. Yet this is how progress is defined by the federal Tory government. Sadly, this is the size of Harper's "big picture."
At the provincial level, conditions are no better. Premier Wynne just announced a "blue ribbon" panel to address government transparency and accountability and then assigned a chosen cadre of politicos to fill that task. As if destined by karma, her public announcement was doomed from the outset. Her speaker's podium had a sign that misspelled the word "government." The letter 'n' was missing like the transparency she now hopes to find!
How can you get the peoples' priorities right if you can't even spell the name of the institution that represents this public interest?
OPSEU takes a different route to transparency. It's called democracy. OPSEU members, who pay the freight, have the final decision on how their money is spent. That is true accountability.
Looking at the year ahead we see significant challenges starting with collective bargaining. About two thirds of our 500-plus bargaining units, including CAAT Support and Academic, will be bargaining for contract renewals. OPS mobilizing will also start in earnest. When you add in about 40 first contracts for new members and units, we are sure to be operating at full throttle in 2014. We will be up to the task. Activism and results define our union, OPSEU.
The spring of 2014 will likely bring a provincial election. Our members will then have their say at the polls. We will fully mobilize to participate and affect the outcome. We will aim for a result that supports the families of all working people as well as the less fortunate in our communities.
Our members, together in committees or as activists working in communities, need strong backup and resources. Activism plus resources equals positive results with employers and the other stakeholders. Positive results bring improvements to member lives, as well as to the quality of life in communities and the province.
Our educational programs will continue to expand so locals can build strength to make a difference inside the workplace. We will keep up our program to maintain and, when needed, upgrade union-owned properties to reflect our pride, profile and community relationships. Every office should be a place where members can be proud. They need to be a place where members and activists can expect resources, facilities and staff attention.
Best of all we will enter 2014 in great financial shape. We have worked hard to get spending under control and erase our line of credit. I am proud to say that we have accomplished this without the cuts and service reductions witnessed in other organizations.
Next year will be another great 12 months for all. We are growing in numbers and influence. We continue to make a big difference in the lives of our members and the communities in which they live.
While I can't promise unbundled television channels I can guarantee that when it comes to promoting the rights of working people and their families OPSEU will change the channel on issues that really matter. Together, we will work to improve the lives of our members and quality of life in Ontario!
Eddy (Eduardo) Almeida
1st Vice President / Treasurer