President celebrates 25 years
"As a Union we are nothing without our
history. We don’t exist. Thank you to the people who were here
in 1975 … We wouldn’t be here without you."
"If we can’t keep bringing new people
in we have no future. Thank you too for being here. You are the
future of something important and worth fighting for and bigger
than any one person - this Union."
This opened OPSEU’s 25th Anniversary
Convention. In her Presidential report President Casselman spent
time talking about the last year in perspective to the last 25
years. She talked about OPSEU being like a book with its pages
made up of all the delegates; new, long-term and in between,
contributions over the years making up the pages.
She also talked about the Network for Better
Contracts and its emphases on the union’s core business:
collective bargaining, organizing and public policy.
A commemorative poster
highlighting the last 25 years has space available for
individuals to document their own personal history in OPSEU.
Building on her theme of a book she urged delegates to keep
their own record of activism in OPSEU. "Taken together all
of these moments form the true collective history of the
union," she said. "We will build on the history to
ensure we remain the best damned union in the province of
Ontario. We are building it and moving forward together.
Who’s all here anyway?
Executive Board Members 20
Solidarity Guests 10
Convention honours Ken Weller
Delegates unanimously dedicated the 2000 OPSEU
Convention to the memory of Local 236 member Ken Weller
Brother Weller was killed on the
job June 10, 1999 when a truck pulled around a guard truck and
smashed into his MTO pavement-marking vehicle. The vehicle’s
"crush zone" protected the driver in the front cab,
but Ken was in an exposed position operating the machinery at
the rear. He was killed instantly.
The Ministry later acknowledged that they had
equipped their paving vehicles with safety features for drivers,
but they had not given any consideration to the protection of
workers at the rear of the vehicles.
Bob Houston, also of Local 236, moved a
privileged motion that dedicated the Convention to Ken’s
memory. He reminded delegates that April 28th is labour’s Day
of Mourning for workers killed and injured on the job. In
recognizing Ken, Bob said the Convention was giving a name to
but one of the many workers killed in job-related accidents over
the past year.
On the day he was killed, Ken was working away
from his regular Owen Sound area on an assignment to set an
in-house costing for the work to assist the Ministry in its
efforts to tender the job to private contractors.
Since the Harris Government announced five
years ago that many MTO services could be delivered better by
the private sector, private contractors have known that the
Ministry is getting rid of staff and equipment. They have been
bidding up their tenders and MTO is using its remaining crews as
a cost control.
Is harassment a Health & Safety issue?
The answer is "yes" in the view of
the three panelists and 50 participants who attended the PHRC
Labour lawyer Kate Hughes led off
with a description of a recent Supreme Court of Canada decision
in a human rights case filed by SEIU against the British
Columbia Government. In 1992 the B.C. forest services hired a
female firefighter. She performed her job well, but in 1995 when
all firefighters were required to pass a new series of fitness
tests she failed to run 2.5 kilometres in 11 minutes.
The employer fired her. The Union grieved and
an arbitrator reinstated her, finding that the new aerobic
standard had a disproportionately negative effect on women.
The employer was able to persuade the B.C.
Court of Appeal to overturn the arbitration award, but the
Supreme Court overturned the B.C. court’s decision by a vote
of 9-0 in September. Ms. Hughes called the decision significant.
It does away with the distinction between direct and indirect
discrimination. The Supreme Court ruled that direct and indirect
discrimination should be treated the same way. The case summary
is available in the current edition of Update
The other two panelists were Local 642
activists Henry Dumont and Cindy McQuarry. They spoke about
their struggle for justice and dignity at the Monteith Jail
where a supervisor had been sexually harassing unclassified
female members for a period of years before the victims came
forward with the help of the union and had the manager fired.
Local 642 received OPSEU’s Human Rights
award at last year’s convention and the successful outcome in
their fight against their predatory supervisor.
EBM Derek Miller chaired the forum. He
concluded the meeting by telling the audience that
"knowledge is power" and the panelists had provided
human rights activists with more tools to fight human rights
Another barrier attacked
Delegates passed a resolution moved by the
Provincial Women’s Committee. The resolution directs the union
to work with all bargaining teams to encourage them to negotiate
a minimum of five days paid leave per year as family
responsibility leave and six days for personal/compassionate
Delegates at the OPSEU Women’s Conference
feel that family obligations are a barrier to their full
participation in work and their union.
This resolution attacks another barrier in
thearovebattle to gain respect in the workplace!
Convention unanimously approved the idea of a
strong coalition to support public, adequately funded post
Stephanie Blake, EBM Region 5,
said, "We are facing the worst crisis in post secondary
education. It is moving toward a two-tier system. For working
class, there is the public system and for all others, the
private system. Cuts to university and colleges have been
dramatic in the past 10 years. Although students are paying the
fees, the fact is: you..are getting stressed staff and half of
what you used to get. That is certainly the case at Ryerson."
OPSEU was asked to reaffirm its
strong opposition to further tuition increases, the introduction
of private universities and colleges, the widespread waste of
tax dollars through outsourcing, and the targeting of education
resources to meet the needs of one sector of society — the
Delegates approve legal fund
Members falsely accused and facing criminal
charges in relation to their employment will now have some
Barry Scanlon, Chair of the Corrections MERC
team moved a motion to amend the budget. $150,000 of the legal
budget being directed to assist member’s legal costs.
Individual members will have access to maximum
of $5,000 for their legal defence, provided it is preauthorized
by OPSEU and verified on a regular basis.
The resolution also directs OPSEU to seek
imbursement from the employer for legal costs.
by Charles Faust, Local 728
Remember the first time you set foot on the
convention floor? It can be intimidating. A "New Delegates
Seminar" Wednesday night drew 75 delegates, alternates and
observers to learn the ropes. District Supervisor and workshop
convener Roy Storey said, "Most new delegates have a good
understanding of Union functions but a limited understanding of
how convention works. The numbers can be overwhelming." The
seminar covered microphone protocol, room layout and first level
rules of order.
These interviews with new delegates may take
Rita Carney works at
the Cochrane Association of Community Living and is mother to
seven children. She is proud of her Development Services Worker
title. She became president of Local 641 last October
while she and her co-workers were on strike. The need to manage
strike issues convinced her to take a more active role. Rita has
found Convention 2000 very stimulating. "Trying to
understand the committee structure in the OPS is a real learning
experience."she said. "I am impressed with how
informed the members are."
Doris Meredith, a
cook at Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital for 10 years, has been
Vice President of Local 720 for two years. The
"ambiguity surrounding restructuring in mental health
services" got her hooked on OPSEU. "I wanted to become
part of the process to sort it out; not just let it get shuffled
off." Doris finds it "exciting to see a large group
come together and accomplish things for members. When issues
come up where I have formed an opinion, I wouldn’t hesitate to
express that opinion."
Lana-Lee Hardacre. a
professor at Conestoga College in Kitchener, has been Vice
President of Local 237 for 21/2 years. Unfair treatment
of staff and lack of trust in a manager convinced her to become
active. Lana-Lee regrets not being able to attend the New
Delegates Seminar. "It might have simplified the microphone
proceedings for me. I would like to see us get down to business
on the first day. There were some uncomfortable moments where
lack of order and politicking prevailed."
Cathy McCool, a
matron at the O.P.P. detachment in Red Lake, was elected Vice
President of Local 728 in February. She became involved
because of the "lack of representation in her
division." The size of convention didn’t intimidate her.
"Any member should have the opportunity to participate in
decisions on how the workplace is run and how their money is
About 10 per cent of the delegates are here
for the first time. Based on these interviews, OPSEU’s future
looks bright. These new delegates will make their mark before
the week is out.
by Mike Culkeen, Local 317
OPSEU members turned out in fine form for the
noon-day rally at Nathan Phillips Square.
CUPE Local 79 (inside workers) have dug in
against the City of Toronto in their latest contract
negotiations. A large crowd assembled to hear CUPE Nationa’
President Judy Darcy and OPSEU President Leah Casselman express
their encouragement and support for the striking workers.
The crowd of supporters were in a festive mood
of support with flags and banners blowing in the brisk cold
breeze. Supparters were entertained by the Rank and File Band
playing ‘Solidarity Forever’ and other labour songs as
strikers passed out buttons and balloons.
Delegate spass deficit budget
"While past budgets attempted to change
financial structure, this one is about maintaining what we
currently have," Len Hupet said in presenting a deficit
budget to the 2000 Convention.
Faced with the need to continue to build the
strike fund while maintaining service levels to the members and
the continuing desire to do so without a dues increase, the
members need to weigh the costs against a deficit position.
This will be achieved through
several initiatives including the Network for Better Contracts.
Bargaining unit members must have the confidence that their
local leaders have the skills to do the job, that there is staff
to support them, and the structure to ensue that these resources
will continue into the future. -
A motion to increase the grievance fund by $2
million was made by Ted Montgomery Local 560, CAAT(A). "The
constitution demands a grievance. When they violate we must
grieve. If we don’t back them up, we abandon our
members," Brother Montgomery said in speaking to his
motion. The motion passed overwhelmingly.
A motion to delete the reserve funding of $295
thousand Future Conventions and the $40 thousand for the
PWC Women’s Conference were also carried.
The 2000 Budget carried as amended.
Travelers to Thunder Time
By Isabelle Mercier, PHRC Region 7
The Aboriginal Circle/Caucus commenced with a
Ceremonial Smudge, performed by Brother Tim Brown, traveler to
Thunder Time, OFL Vice President-Aboriginal Peoples. He
introduced himself and explained the Ceremony of the Eagle
Feather. Members then passed the Eagle Feather around,
introducing themselves and creating an intimate bond. As
travelers in the circle, Brother Brown then took us to the vales
of grieving as aboriginals and our responsibilities to fellow
Continuing to educate, Brother Brown explained
the Medicine Wheel, the colours, their meaning and the growing
path each of us must take:
• Yellow — infancy to
• Red — teenager, wanderer
• Black — adulthood
• White — Elder, wisdom
Intimate contact with Mother Earth, up to Sky
Father and finally contact with ones inner self, gives us our
center balance. This is the optimum place to be when facing all
our challenges and adventures.
In closing, the Eagle Feather was again
passed, at which time each traveler expressed their feelings,
gratitude and personal thoughts. The sacred gift of tobacco and
water completed the ceremonies.
The aboriginal caucus is asking that OPSEU
support the establishment of a permanent aboriginal caucus with
appropriate funding under the umbrella of the Provincial Human
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