Election readiness frames 2011 BPS Conference
June 21, 2011
Politics was the dominant theme of this
past weekend’s BPS Conference and divisional meetings in Toronto as more
than 600 delegates, alternates and staff gathered to discuss methods to
promote OPSEU’s program of full public services in advance of the Oct. 6
“With the provincial election less than
four months away, today is a day about politics,” OPSEU President Warren
(Smokey) Thomas told delegates in his prepared text at Friday’s opening
plenary. “Politics matter. Politics influence the way we live our lives
as communities; it influences the way we live our lives as individuals.
“In the case of OPSEU members, politics
affect what work we do, how we do it, how we are paid for it and how it
is paid for.”
The President was especially critical of
the failure of the provincial Liberals or Conservatives to commit to
sending representatives to a special Town Hall meeting that had been
planned for Friday afternoon. Both parties had sent a representative to
the last BPS conference in 2009.
“Unfortunately two of the main parties were
unable to provide us with a representative who was capable of handling
the questions that 600 top union leaders from across Ontario might ask.
“This is outrageous, of course, but I have
to stay I can hardly blame them. I am sure Dalton McGuinty doesn’t want
to listen to anyone suggesting that cutting the wages of working people
is bad economic policy.”
OPSEU First Vice-President / Treasurer,
Eddy Almeida, struck a similar theme.
“If you listen to McGuinty or Hudak, they
say that driving down wages, cutting jobs and cutting funding for public
services is the way to help Ontarians. We know that’s nothing but a load
“As you move forward in the months ahead of
us, as you take your message to the politicians and the public that you
will not accept cuts, you will be doing more than fighting the
right-wing agenda in this province. You will show others, through your
actions, that it is possible to make change.
Friday’s two-part plenary opened with OPSEU
political economist, Randy Robinson, walking delegates through an
informative session titled “How did we get here and where are we going?
during which he explained the global and national economic and political
forces behind the provincial government’s determination to reduce public
spending on the backs of those in the public sector who deliver
Robinson focused, in part, on the
significant influence of the news media to shape public opinion in ways
that work against the interest of working people, and how governments
seize on this reporting and analysis to fashion anti-worker economic and
That session was followed the same morning
by a presentation from Marc Zwelling, president of Vector Research, who
analyzed recent public opinion surveying conducted by his firm showing
that in many instances the views of working people are ignored by
governments when fashioning public policy.
The afternoon was spent working with
delegates on building positive communication messages that frame and
deliver the views of working people and organized labour in ways that
combat widespread misconceptions of each group in the media, business
community and among the general public. The session, led by Zwelling and
employing the theme “Words that Hurt … Words that Work” had the goal of
preparing delegates to carry OPSEU’s positive message of full public
services into this autumn’s election.
In a change of form from previous BPS
conferences, and with the forthcoming election in mind, delegates were
assigned seating during the plenary based on their home ridings, and not
by which sector they work for. This approach had the benefit of mixing
delegates together by their constituencies so that they might identify
issues and communication strategies on a cross-sectoral basis.