Labour Day: a time to celebrate workers, and listen to them

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We’ve marched in the parades, attended the picnics and enjoyed a day off with family and friends. Each year, on the first Monday of September, we celebrate the achievements of workers and the powerful movement that we have built.

And while there is plenty to celebrate this Labour Day, including the resilience and dedication of front-line workers who’ve kept Ontario running in the face of danger, this year is also different.

Simply celebrating workers is not enough; it is time for government to give us a seat at the table, and listen, I mean really listen.

Our country’s future is in the hands of workers, including the thousands of OPSEU/SEFPO members who have heroically served on the front lines of the pandemic. They have been through a lot, they have proven themselves, and now, they have something to say about it.

If we are going to reach new heights and achieve new gains in the post-pandemic world, we must continue to build solidarity, and those in power must continue to listen closely.

We have accomplished great things within our union family – welcoming thousands of new members, who now enjoy union protection during these extremely challenging times.

We have continued to invest in our membership and our union by acquiring new properties, without any additional debt. Our new properties in Sudbury and Haliburton are not just assets of the strike fund, they will support the work of our union and its members for many years to come.

We run a tight ship at OPSEU/SEFPO and that gives us that extra bit of credibility when we present the solutions of front-line members to those in power. No political leader or employer can just brush us aside as all talk and no action. We walk the walk.

It’s how we have achieved many of the gains that working people deserve.

In the past year, we have worked with government to achieve many good starts; to improve workplace health and safety, and secure greater investment in health care, corrections, public colleges and more.

And despite the tense bargaining climate created by Bill 124 and its unconstitutional wage cap, we have also bargained good contracts for our LBED and College Support Part-Time members. We will continue to support our members as we negotiate contracts for the OPS, Corrections and College Faculty.

Despite all these achievements, the COVID crisis must be our catalyst for bigger, bolder change; to shift our thinking beyond recovery, toward long-term prosperity. It’s what our province needs, and Ontarians agree.

It’s no surprise that during the pandemic, public support and solidarity with front-line workers has reached a high point. Now, we must turn that pandemic solidarity into permanent solidarity, by continuing to build unity.

It’s why our union has outlined a blueprint to build back better, with five key principles: invest to expand capacity in hospitals and long-term care; respect workers; protect public services and resources; expand public services; and at the heart of it all, listen to workers.

Throughout history, progressive change happened when workers demanded it – from the shorter work week to employment insurance, old age security and parental benefits. As we navigate the post-pandemic world, we can be certain that front-line workers have the expertise and ideas to build a better, stronger Ontario – and they deserve a seat at the planning table.

Because when workers have a real voice, great things are achieved.

On Labour Day, let’s celebrate the solidarity of our past, present and a future where we push for big, bold change.

In Solidarity,

Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer
@OPSEUEddy
facebook.com/OPSEUEddy 

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