Another reason why I like this work as much as I do…

…being in a position to motivate a major campaign to fight privatization is such a fulfilling place for me to be, and lets me use my skills and experience in ways that benefit all of OPSEU. Here’s what happened…

At last week’s Executive Board meeting, the Board was presented with a very well done proposal from staff, in response to our request for a major campaign to fight the Liberal privatization of the public service. There was a motion for the Board to consider, and approving the motion was essential to unlock funds for this campaign. The problem was, the motion as it was worded left questions unanswered. The Board was not ready to agree and this was prudent action from the Board. But we did not want to lose the campaign. One of the Board members moved to table the motion until the Board re-convened in the morning, and this carried. President Thomas asked if the Board members would come in the morning with fresh ideas as to how we could take this campaign forward.

That night I met with RVP Sara Labelle and two other Board members, to review the matter. Three hours of discussion and debate later I wrote the motion we would bring to the Board. It was substantially different from the original. In the morning I spoke with the President, with First Vice-President/Treasurer Eddy Almeida , and with several EBMs about this new motion. We discussed it at the full Board meeting and then, in a working lunch, I met with First V-P Almeida and RVP Labelle to put finishing touches on the motion, based on EBM comments. RVP Labelle made the final adjustments. Back at the Board, and after further discussion, the motion was approved unanimously! It was an exhausting effort of creative thinking, collaboration, lobbying, debate, and decision, but it was worth it in the end.

Details of this campaign will be brought to Convention, but let me tell you that it is a major initiative, which will span the full spectrum of sectors in OPSEU – since none of us are safe from the privatization attack. It will include lobbying politicians at all levels, public campaigns, and more. Every Local will have the chance to be involved.

Being at the centre of this very crucial initiative and being able to help draft the motion that will make it happen, was intensely gratifying. I’m so grateful to be in my position on the Board, where I can do this kind of work.

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No April Fooling with the Audit Report

On April 1, the Audit Committee will receive the 2014 Audit from the Union’s auditing firm. As Chair of the Audit Committee, I worked with First V-P/Treasurer Eddy Almeida and with staff to set up the meeting and ensure that all due process is followed.

When the Board members elected me to the Audit Committee and then to Chair the Committee, I had a sense that I had a detailed learning curve ahead of me. And I was right…the curve was steep and interesting every step of the way. The Audit Committee deals with issues that are essential legal requirements. In working through those issues, we ensure that OPSEU remains a viable corporation under the Corporations Act. I feel pretty honoured that the Board elected me to ensure this gets done right.

In addition to the external Audit, the Committee itself conducts audits of EBM and Board Committee finances. Questions and recommendations go to the First V-P/Treasurer and/or the Board. One example of the impact we have had while I’ve been there, of which I’m particularly proud, is that in 2014 the Audit Committee crafted guidelines for the approval of President Assignment days for EBMs. These guidelines were approved by the Board, and have enhanced accountability and transparency. This in turn has benefited the Board and the Union.

That the Board has trusted me with such responsibility has been pretty special for me. It has been a challenge that I’ve welcomed. So on April 1 the Committee will review  the Audit and if approved, it will then go to the Executive Board. Once the Board approves the Audit, it goes to Convention for final approval. This will fulfill obligations under the Corporations Act.  And … there is no April Fooling with the Audit !

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Ré-élection annonce

À tous mes frères et toutes mes sœurs de la région 6,

C’est avec un grand plaisir que je vous fais part de mon intention de présenter ma candidature pour un autre mandat au Conseil exécutif du SEFPO.

Je suis membre du Conseil exécutif depuis quatre ans maintenant, et vice-président régional depuis deux de ces quatre ans.

Mon engagement auprès des conseils de districts et des sections locales dans tous les secteurs de la région 6, ainsi que mon travail avec le Conseil exécutif et le personnel m’ont donné l’expérience que je crois que vous voulez et que je suis convaincu que vous méritez afin d’assurer un leadership continu lors de ce prochain mandat de deux ans.

Ce fût un honneur et un privilège pour moi recevoir la confiance des membres de cette incroyable région.

J’ai écouté, j’ai appris, et j’ai agi.

Lorsque j’ai été élu à mon premier mandat, je me suis engagé à assurer une communication claire, consistante et expédiente. J’ai travaillé avec acharnement pour bâtir une équipe solide avec mes collègues membres du conseil de district ainsi qu’avec nos présidents des sections locales et nos membres. J’ai établi des liens avec les présidents locaux et aussi avec les militants. J’ai entretenu un réseau de médias sociaux. Et surtout, j’ai réussi à assurer un temps de réaction d’un maximum de 48 heures aux demandes des membres, et en général, je réussi à leur revenir en moins de 24 heures.

Lorsque nos dirigeants locaux ont eu besoin de ressources, de réponses à leurs questions, ou encore lorsqu’ils ont fait face à des obstacles, j’ai réussi à obtenir le soutien dont ils avaient besoin afin de soutenir leur engagement aux sections locales. En effet, les présidents des sections locales savent qu’ils peuvent compter sur moi en tout temps.

Mon expérience a mené à des résultats solides pour notre région : des télévisions intelligentes se font installées dans la plupart des centres des membres afin d’assurer la participation des membres qui proviennent de communautés éloignées; l’offre de programmes de formation a augmenté; le cours de l’équité est bien établi. Le taux de participation est élevé. Les militants savent très bien qu’ils ont de bons résultats avec moi au leadership.

Et vous, vous êtes bien représentés au Conseil exécutif. Les besoins de notre région ne tombent jamais en deuxième place avec moi. J’ai déposé des propositions d’intérêt local, régional et national, tel que la proposition pour ajouter la voix du SEFPO au mouvement pour une enquête nationale sur les femmes autochtones disparues et assassinées.

Le Conseil a reconnu le leadership que j’apporte au syndicat, et m’a élu président de son Comité de vérification. Ce dossier est complexe et délicat. Depuis que je suis président, non seulement est-ce que le comité a réussi à mettre en place des mesures de contrôle sur les dépenses des MCE, mais nous avons aussi amélioré les politiques pour régir les activités du Conseil exécutif.

Dans les semaines à venir je vais continuer mes conversations avec les leaders locaux quant aux plans et aux besoins prévus pour les deux prochaines années. Je vais aussi présenter mes propres priorités, issues de mon travail dans notre région.

Je vous remercie de la confiance que vous avez montrée à mon égard. Je vous remercie aussi de votre collaboration, de votre soutien, de votre humour, et surtout, de votre dévouement au SEFPO.

Je demande donc votre soutien lors de la réunion régionale du 18 avril. Continuons sur la voie de la solidarité et de la croissance.

Avec  toute ma reconnaissance, et en solidarité,

Jeff

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My re-election announcement

To my Sisters and Brothers in Region 6 –

It is with great excitement that I am announcing my candidacy for re-election to the Executive Board of OPSEU.

I’ve been an Executive Board Member (EBM) for four years, the last two as your Regional Vice-President.

My involvement with Locals and Area Councils in all parts of Region 6, and my work with the Board and staff has given me the experience that I think you want and which I know you deserve, to provide continued leadership for the coming two-year term.

It has been humbling and honouring to have had the trust of this great Region.

I’ve listened, I’ve learned, and I’ve acted.

When I was first elected, I promised to give fast, clear, and consistent communication. I’ve worked tirelessly to build a strong team with my fellow Regional EBMs and with our Local Presidents and members. I’ve reached out to Local Presidents and activists. I’ve maintained a full social media network. My response time rarely exceeds 48 hours, and usually is under 24.

When our Local leaders have asked for resources, needed answers to questions, or encountered barriers, I’ve been successful in obtaining what was required to support their good work within the Locals. Local Presidents know they can call on me at any time.

My track record is solid on getting results for our Region. Smart TV’s are being installed in our membership centres, to increase the involvement of members from remote areas. Educational offerings are up. Equity School is well established. Participation is high. Activists know they are getting results with my leadership.

And you are well represented at the Executive Board. The needs of our Region are never on my back burner. I’ve moved motions that are of Local, Regional, and national interest – such as the motion to add OPSEU’s voice to the call for a National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women.

The Board has recognized what I bring to the leadership of the Union, and elected me to chair the Board Audit Committee. This is a sensitive and complex portfolio. Since I have been Chair, the Committee has provided measures to control EBM spending and to enhance the policies that advance the OPSEU agenda.

In the coming weeks I will continue to speak with our Local leaders about plans and needs for the coming two years. I will present the priorities I have, which have originated within our Region.

Thank you for the trust you have placed in me. Thank you for your collaboration, your support, your humour, and your dedication to OPSEU.

I ask for your support at the Regionals on April 18. Let’s continue on our path of solidarity and growth.

With great appreciation, and in solidarity,

Jeff

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Calling for a National Inquiry is not hard to understand; ignoring reality is really hard to understand

Calling for a National Inquiry into murdered and missing Aboriginal women is not hard to understand. The OPSEU Executive Board unanimously supported my motion to add OPSEU’s voice to the call. The injustice, the bias, the systemic marginalization of Aboriginal women is not hard to understand. One just have to read, or better still, speak with Aboriginal activists. What is hard to understand is the refusal of the Harper government to act on the repeated and nation-wide calls for an inquiry. What is difficult to understand are local Sault Ste. Marie politicians who show their lack of understanding with comments such as those that were reported in the attached article. What is hard to understand is the bias of many of the people who joined in the discussion in the “comments” section. Well, I too joined into that discussion. Rarely do I comment on news articles, but this one demanded a response. Here is the link to the article, and the comments, including my own.

http://www.sootoday.com/content/news/details.asp?c=87998

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Union role ignored by Globe and Mail

Union role ignored by Globe and Mail

What do you call it when the truth is twisted, or when half-truths are told, to fulfill a private agenda?

That is what we have with the report “Greater Toronto’s Top Employers 2015.”

The Report was co=published by the Globe and Mail and MediaCorp. They say that these employers were chosen for being “forward thinking in creating the best types of work environment.” They refer to such criteria as “physical workplace…work and social atmosphere…benefits…vacation and time off…” As if these activities are creations of the employers alone. As if the workers themselves through their Union had nothing to do with the development of their working conditions ! As if workers’ benefits are freely given by the magnanimous heart of the employer, as opposed to being won in hard-fought negotiations!

That it is these two organizations which published this report might point to a slanted tale. It would be laughable if it did not so directly and seriously affect the lives of public service workers and members of our communities.

Though focused on Toronto, many of the named employers have provincial reach, so it is worth deeper consideration. I’ll single out just a few examples where the lens is, shall we say, myopic. I’ll also stick mainly to workplaces that are at least partly represented by OPSEU.

First off, they list as a top employer in 2015…the Ontario Public Service/OPS. As you might expect, no mention is made of the horrific contract proposal the employer tabled in bargaining. The Report leaves out the workplace fear generated by continuing layoffs and encroaching privatization. OPSEU President Smokey Thomas has asked the Globe and Mail to remove the OPS from this “top employers” list. And despite all this, what does the Report state about the OPS? It “Offers health benefits that extend to retirees, with no age limit.” Yes you read correctly…”Offers.” As if the employer, in their unparalleled generosity of spirit, simply gave these benefits to the employees. The reality is that benefits are negotiated, and the workers and their Union representatives shape the benefit package.

Colleges are well represented in the Report. About Durham College they say “established a sustainability committee to … practice…economic sustainability.” No mention of the Union role, no mention of privatization initiatives. George Brown College is also in there, apparently because it “offers new mothers, fathers, and adoptive parents the option to extend…maternity or parental leave into an unpaid leave of absence.” As if the employer freely granted this…truth is, it was negotiated by the Union. And they list Seneca College. No mention of the several hundred layoffs of partial-load teachers. Rather they say that this employer “supports employees who are new mothers with maternity and parental leave…” If they were fully truthful, they would have noted that this benefit was negotiated by OPSEU, in collective bargaining. Instead they seem to want the reader to think that the employer just provides this because they are…well…nice !

Health care agencies are in the Report too. CAMH “starts new employees at three weeks of paid vacation…” Yes, they do, because this was negotiated by the Union.  And Lakeridge Health “provides tuition subsidies…” They do not mention the key role the Local Union played in securing that benefit.

The Report would have readers believe that benefits are provided by employers just because they are great employers. The Report omits the truth about the key role played by workers and their Union representatives in securing the variety of benefits that workers have. The Report omits the truth about how many of these same employers fought against benefit improvements in collective bargaining. The Report omits the truth about layoffs, privatization, and the manipulation of Collective Agreement language that occurs in many of these facilities on the initiative of the employer.

The Report did not have to turn out this way. The Globe and Mail and MediaCorp only needed to talk with the Unions. They only needed to realize what all of our members already know – which is that benefits and many other workplace conditions are negotiated by the parties. Spinning the truth to fulfill an employer’s public relations agenda does not fool the members of OPSEU.

You can find the Report at

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Some questions for Glenn Thibeault

Glenn Thibeault, the former NDP MP from Sudbury, has jumped ship to become the Liberal candidate in the Sudbury provincial by-election…reportedly recruited directly by Premier Wynne.

Never mind that the Provincial Liberals are actively moving to privatize much of the public service, which we know could cost several thousand public service workers their jobs.

Never mind that many OPSEU members supported Mr. Thibeault in his elections, with their time, their expertise, and their donations.

Never mind that the jobs of these very members are in the sights of the Liberals in their quest to gut the public service.

Never mind that the contract proposal the Liberals put in front of the OPS was the instrument for privatization.

Never mind all of that. We move forward, right? Yeah, right.

So let’s see…maybe Mr. Thibeault considers himself a “progressive Liberal.” Maybe he considers himself a defender of labour. If that is so, I challenge him here:

Mr. Thibeault, now that you want to be part of the Liberal privatization/P3 team, if you are elected:

–          Will you, in words and actions, guarantee that the Liberals will drop their plan to privatize the public service, and reverse the privatizations that have occurred under their government?

–          And if not, will you, in words and actions, guarantee that the Liberals will follow the 5-point plan put forward by OPSEU President Smokey Thomas and endorsed by NUPGE, which would provide five conditions for privatization including full costing analysis, public hearings, and other measures?

–          Will you, in words and actions, ensure that the Liberal government calls a public inquiry into the privatization industry in Ontario, so that citizens can find out who is pushing these shady deals and who is agreeing to them?

–          Will you, in words and actions, put an end to the reprehensible P3 scams of the Liberals and return Ontario’s P3 facilities to fully-public services, where they belong? Will you ensure that the Liberals stop the waste and protect Ontario’s public services? Will you force the P3 profiteers to return their ill-gotten gains? Will you ensure that the Liberals live up to the principles of transparency and tell us who these profiteers are and how much of the public sector purse they have been given, in these schemes?

–          P3’s have re-routed public money from front line operations to infrastructure. Fancy buildings are built, but service delivery is starved for funds. Privatizing makes this problem worse, and wastes more money. Have you not yourself stated that cutting services is not the answer? Will you, in words and actions, guarantee that this mismanagement and waste is stopped and that front line services get proper and adequate funding?

–          Will you, in words and actions, ensure that the Liberals raise corporate taxes and taxes on the “1%” to ensure they pay their fair share…especially those who made fortunes on P3 schemes and failed projects like Ornge, the gas plants, and SAMS?

–          Will you, in words and actions, ensure that government IT services remain in the public service in Ontario and do not get farmed out to the private sector, to the Cloud, run by out-of-country operations?

–          Will you, in words and actions, ensure that the Liberals start behaving democratically by bargaining public service contracts in good faith?

–          Will you, in words and actions, ensure an immediate return of Ontario highway maintenance to the Ministry of Transportation, and end the profit-driven sell-out of road maintenance to out-of-country firms that just don’t do the job?

–          Will you, in words and actions, ensure an immediate return of the MNR seasonal firefighters who saw their jobs eliminated by the Liberals?

–          Will you, in words and actions, ensure that the Liberals immediately enforce safety standards for institutional correctional workers; ambulance workers; workers in developmental service and mental health facilities; and elsewhere throughout the public service?

–          Will you, in words and actions, ensure that the Liberals stop trying to pay for their scandals and their mismanagement on the backs of the public service workers and the good services they provide?

And Mr. Thibeault, by doing actions, will you ensure the long-term viability and security of Ontario’s public services and the workers who provide them?

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Ramping up the Public Service Labour Agenda

This weekend I was elected to the Executive Council of the Provincial New Democratic Party, as Northern Representative.

It is no secret that I am active within the NDP. I was the NDP candidate in Sault Ste. Marie  in the 2007 provincial election. I have been a Riding Association President, am currently Chief Financial Officer in the Sault Riding, and have worked on campaigns for most of my adult life.

But that is not the main reason I ran for this newest position.

I wanted to be in a position to support and advance the public service labour agenda in the political arena. Yes I support the aims and principles of the party. But as an OPSEU Regional Vice-President I want to ensure the long-term viability and security of the Union. Being in a position to influence political and campaign policy is where I saw my skills and experience leading me. And so here we are.

And I’m not the only OPSEU member there ! There are two other EBMs and one other activist at the Executive Council ! Four from OPSEU, a very solid showing. This presents a great opportunity for us.

The NDP has always been a champion of worker rights and of the public service. The NDP was the only party that stood up against the “austerity budget” of the Liberals, a budget which would have done severe damage to the public service and to many OPSEU members. We see NDP MPPs fighting for workers every day. France Gelinas, Gilles Bisson, John Vanthof, Joe Cimino, Paul Miller, Cheri DiNovo, Peter Tabuns, Catherine Fife…and all the others…all have a solid and consistent record of fighting for worker rights. Most recently, and over the most heartbreaking of circumstances, we were witness to MPP Michael Mantha laying out his heart and soul for the community of Elliot Lake after the mall collapse that claimed two lives, one of whom was an OPSEU member. Michael went to bat for the community and especially for the first responders, the firefighters, the mine safety teams, the police, and all the other workers who took a lot of unfair criticism in those early days after the collapse.

That is what the fight for worker rights is about. And the NDP has always been there, and continues to stand in solidarity with us, under Andrea Horwath’s leadership.

So you want to know why I accepted a  nomination for the Provincial Executive Council? Those are the reasons. I can now join with that team to ensure that the legacy continues, and to carry forward the voice of OPSEU to the highest policy level of the party.

I and the other OPSEU activists at that table won’t let you down.

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I make no apologies for….

I make no apologies for living in a country that has collective bargaining.

This was the opening of my response to a question about whether union members ask for too much in bargaining….that we should “be grateful” for having a job…

The question was asked by a former union member, when I was on a panel during the NDP Northern Council.

I went on to say that rather than push everyone down (as the political right seems to want), we should be raising everyone up. That is what social justice is all about. That is why we in OPSEU push for increases to the minimum wage, among many other examples.

The question reflects a right-wing agenda to discredit unions, to marginalize unionized workers, and to erode collective bargaining in general. It is even more troubling to me when union members, or former union members, adopt this mind-set. I see it as a matter of education. But also a matter of standing up for democratic rights.

Unionized workers have the right to bargain collectively. That right was not freely and happily given out by employers. It was won by earlier generations of workers who stood strong on the picket line and fought for justice in the courts. Our fight now is to keep those rights from bring eroded, and in fact to extend them to workers who don’t currently have those rights.

I make no apologies for that. Hope you don’t either !

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I’m nobody’s servant – some Labour Day thoughts

I don’t think I’m so different from most people, when it comes to protecting the things I’ve worked hard for, the things that are valuable to me.

For instance, when I return home each day, one of the first things I do is check over the place, ensuring that everything and everyone is safe. I don’t do it like an obsession, but I do it. My home is important to me, and to my family. It safeguards me. I worked hard for it. Why not put in the effort to protect it, even try to improve over time? I know what can happen if I ignore it, take it for granted…It will erode, or someone will try to take it from me.

My Collective Agreement is also important. I, along with my Union sisters and brothers and predecessors, worked hard for it. It safeguards me. It provides security. It is probably the most important document I have.

If I am diligent about protecting my home, would it not make even more sense for me to work hard to protect the very Agreement that makes it possible for me to have my home in the first place?

Of course it does.

Governments are increasingly showing their zeal for taking away our hard-won gains. We hear the argument that Collective Agreement protections, Health and Safety provisions, defined-benefit pensions, automatic dues deductions, and even our salaries, are just not needed. We hear our political enemies say that Union activism is no longer needed….that we should just trust the 1% to “take care of us.”

What an illusion. With the stroke of a pen (or the touch of a keyboard), governments can and are stripping away our rights. Collective bargaining has been overridden by imposed contracts. Defined benefit pensions are just hanging on. Sick leave plans are changed with no consultation.

Nothing is protected unless we protect it.

And as long as I can, I will work to protect the negotiated rights of union members, to improve them where possible, and to protect the range of Ontario public services.

To those who would privatize the public service, who would gut our pensions, who say we have “too many public servants,” I say this: first, the public service is the best deal Ontario has, and second, I’m nobody’s servant…I’m a proud Ontario Public Service Worker and a proud member of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. And I’ll do what is necessary to keep it that way.

My Union predecessors, my current sisters and brothers, my children demand no less and deserve no less.

Happy Labour Day

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