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Where Will OPSEU Be 2 Years From Now?

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The province of Ontario has a huge problem. The 2008 world financial crisis still resonates 4 years later. Thanks to the one sided and ill-advised Drummond Report its impact is about to be amplified in communities where we live and work.

Does Ontario have a spending problem or a revenue problem? Well, boondoggles such as E health and ORNGE, where tax pay dollar directly went to pockets of private sector investors and industry, are disturbing.

Someone needs to go to jail for this theft of public funds and breach of public trust. Politicians who moved these agencies outside of the public purview, “because private corporations do things better and cheaper”, should be first into the cells.

But what about the public services our members deliver to Ontarians each and every day? We have built up these services together as a society. They keep Ontario just, fair and compassionate. Given these core values and principles, these services should not be provided for profit. They are not just another commodity!

The litmus test for accountability is value for money. Finance Minister Duncan stressed that Ontario has the most efficient and cost effective public services in the federation. Great! What is not recognized by the Minister or the Premier is that our fiscal problems do not come from over spending. They arise from a lack of revenue.

Without this understanding politicians lack the courage to do what is right. They don’t have the intestinal fortitude to tell the people of Ontario that quality public services cost money. One way or the other, that money must come from taxes.

As I commented last month, rather than taxing people who can afford to pay, the Liberals are passing the buck to the poor, the retired and the middle class. These less advantaged groups are being asked to fill government coffers. Now they are also being asked to do so directly through slot machines, lotteries and other forms of privatized gambling. This is wrong.

My parents taught me that there are two ways to do things, the right way, which takes work and perseverance, or the easy way. McGuinty and Duncan have chosen the easy way.

They clearly don’t want to offend right wing anti-tax crusaders. Why take heat when you can ignore a problem and let it fester until drastic measures must be taken? Why not just pass the problem on to another government and generation?

My folks also told me that by following the right path even though it was tough and tested ones strength, we could build something of substance. The final product would be strong, able to stand the test of time. My parents were wise even though they may have not had the best education or a degree. They knew what held value: people, not profits. I will always remember this. Their wisdom has become part of my mission. These are the goals I promote and follow.

At OPSEU, we will have our own challenges at Convention 2012 when we’ll debate a resolution calling for a temporary dues levy. This measure will increase dues from 1.375% to 1.5%. I am moving and supporting this resolution because I believe it is the right choice. It’s not the easy choice but the one that, in the words of my parents, will be strong, able to stand the test of time. It is the kind of decision needed to assure OPSEU’s future.

OPSEU has been under attack since the Harris years. Public sector workers have been scapegoated for what ails government, even when the Finance Minister said that it isn’t our fault. Right wingers and those on Bay Street love it when government cuts services and blames workers. Why? They see profit opportunities. Profits through privatization; profits from money spent on consumer products rather than the services that provide a just and civil society, and profits that will then go to corporation balance sheets.

To fend off these attacks we need the resources required. Like it or not, standing up for members costs money, over and above the free time our activists provide. Like the family budget, costs have been increasing. Just look at the spiralling cost for fuel, rent, goods and services. The inclusion of the HST has also added to our costs. All of these factors add up. 

On our revenue side, without increases to dues rates, we depend on membership wage increases for added revenue. While our members have fought hard against zeroes and other restrictions, we must acknowledge that wage increases are definitely smaller than in the past.

In our battles we could have just rolled over in defeat. We didn’t. We will be just as strong in the future, because we believe in a fair, just and compassionate society. We also believe in a union that is responsive to challenges faced by its membership. After all, OPSEU is its members.  

Unfortunately, sometimes the politics of those we fight against can creep into our internal union politics. Sometimes cries of waste and mismanagement drown out more rational claims of accountability and sustainability. On one hand that’s fair, because our union respects free speech and democracy.

Let me assure you that on my watch I have always applied a lot of scrutiny to how your dues dollars are spent. I will continue to listen to suggestions and recommendations to make our union more effective, efficient, stronger and better.

As you consider the temporary dues levy debate pay attention to the facts. Keep an eye on what is going on around us. Ask questions about what will happen with or without a dues increase. Where do you see your union being in the next two years? This really is the question that needs an answer. 

I know we will, as a group, do the right thing. We will take actions that are strong, able to stand the test of time. This is why, in two years, I see OPSEU stronger than ever. 

In solidarity,

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

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