We’ve been through a year and a half of Premier Doug Ford’s government and I don’t think you need me to tell you we are in for a tough fight ahead.
Scary as many of the Conservatives’ actions are, I think there is a lot more bad news ahead. I’ll get to that in a minute.
I’ve been spending the past couple of months working on OPSEU’s budget for this year. It was a real struggle and we’re facing a deficit in the neighbourhood of $3-million.
A couple of things struck me as I went through the books: First, OPSEU isn’t a bottomless well.
Our revenue is hovering in the $100-million range. It seems like a lot, but you’d be surprised how quickly that money disappears.
The other thing I’ve noticed is how some people are willing to loosen the purse strings when it’s not their purse.
For example, a small minority of individuals in this union have demanded exceptions to OPSEU’s policy that members share hotel rooms at conferences. We also had one case where we were asked to waive our policy that OPSEU doesn’t pay for hotel rooms for members living within 60 kilometres of a conference. You, the members decided these policies at Convention.
I’ve also noticed more and more requests for book offs to do union work that traditionally members volunteered for.
During the Mike Harris years, when there were rallies or other events, members stepped up on their own time and didn’t expect to get paid time off work. Ask anyone who was around during the 90s.
I’d also like to gently remind the union that represents OPSEU staff to take a step back every once in a while. I’m all for unions that stand up for their members, but there needs to be a balance.
I ask that you remember that your employer’s money doesn’t belong to your employer, it belongs to the members of OPSEU.
All of these things cost money, and those costs add up very quickly and before you know it, OPSEU is facing a sizeable deficit, as we have at times in the past.
We have some big expenses coming up in the next two and a half years.
Our pending court challenge of the Bill 124 wage cap bill is going to be very costly because you can bet Mr. Ford will fight it at every turn because the money he’ll be spending is not his, it’s the Ontario taxpayers’.
Most of our major contracts are coming up next year and bargaining will start this year, so the bills will start to stack up fast and furious.
We also want to keep growing as a union and we need to spend the money it takes to organize new locals because that just makes us stronger. And with a premier like Doug Ford setting the tone, the costs involved with enforcing our collective agreements are bound to go up.
With these important and hefty expenses, we need to spend smarter and on things that we know are going to be effective. Take lobby days at Queen’s Park for example. If we don’t get to meet with MPPs from the government side, it’s not money well spent.
As we fight Doug Ford’s agenda we need to avoid the scattergun approach and stick to targeted methods that we know will get results. Otherwise we waste time and your money.
We need to stay united and keep the spotlight on the government and the employers it funds. Sometimes we’ll have to say no if the expense isn’t within that reality.
OPSEU isn’t just our union, it also belongs to the tens of thousands of members who have made sacrifices in the past and to those who will need us in the decades to come.
Then, now, always.
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer