OPSEU/SEFPO leaders across Ontario took part in tele-town halls from November 30-December 3 to discuss challenges related to COVID-19 and what the upcoming year will hold for the union.
President Warren (Smokey) Thomas and First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida were joined by regional vice-presidents for the nightly tele-town halls with Local Presidents and highest-ranking members from across Ontario.
Thomas thanked the Local Presidents for the leadership they’ve shown throughout the pandemic and their dedication to their local’s members.
“Local Presidents are the foundation of any successful union,” said Thomas. “Whether it’s letting us know about problems on the front lines or being there for members when they need a shoulder to lean on, you’ve been indispensable to OPSEU/SEFPO during this pandemic.”
First-Vice President/Treasurer Almeida noted the importance of keeping the lines of communication open with Local Presidents, the majority of whom work full-time jobs while supporting their members, and announced a new, Local President-specific email contact, LPconnect@opseu.org .
“As Local Presidents, you carry huge responsibility. You provide leadership, guidance, and grit,” said Almeida. “I’m proud of the work you’ve been doing since the start of this pandemic, and we’re here to support you in whatever way we can.”
Across all regions, a significant topic of discussion during the tele-town halls was adjusting to virtual modes of holding union meetings and engaging members during the pandemic. The union’s leaders also discussed how they’ve adapted to virtual bargaining and arbitrations.
“Electronic communication is where the future is,” said Almeida. “We’re investing money into tools that will support this and take it to the next level. I know that doing union business virtually is an adjustment and comes with its own challenges, but I’m confident that it’ll make it easier for everyone to participate going forward.”
Other recurring topics of discussion that were raised by the regions included Convention 2021, the government’s mishandling of pandemic pay, Bill 124 and Bill 195.
“We’ve navigated many changes and challenges this year, and we can take pride in what we’ve achieved,” said Thomas. “As we come out of this pandemic, there will be many more issues ahead to grapple with, but working together, we are a strong driving force for our members’ safety and success.”