There is no doubt that this round of negotiations is the most stressful we in the OPS have yet experienced. There are many reasons for this, but that is not what this post is about. I will share what is clearly my point of view on what to do to help relieve some of the stress (we cannot make it all go away) and I strongly encourage all who read this to share if there is something you have that works well in making it easier for you to deal with stress. This will be neither exhaustive or complete, but a few suggestions on what might work.
It is well established that a major cause of stress is the unknown. The having your fate in the hands of others and having to trust that the end result will be the best for you that you can hope for weighs on all of us. When you are not able to participate or view what is happening in relation to bargaining it is so much harder to because we all want information and feedback on what is happening.
So in regard to stress from this situation I can only offer this advice:
Trust in those who are at the bargaining table on your behalf and remember they are members just like you with many of the same personal concerns and issues that they want resolved favourably. Do your best to stay informed on a regular basis either from checking the OPSEU website regularly or looking to the local sources of information either posted on our website here or on the local bulletin boards. We are doing our best to make sure important information goes up as soon as possible. If you feel that you are not getting information in a timely manner, please remember we are working at sharing as best we can and how well the information gets out is totally dependent upon the volunteers we have helping. Feel free to volunteer to help out if you feel this needs to be improved in your area.
Concern for meeting family and financial obligations is another major source of stress in the best of times and when your livelihood may be negatively impacted that stress is magnified significantly.
If you have reviewed what your resources are and what your specific needs are, then making a plan and preparations to cover the potential impacts of a work stoppage is what needs to be done. Having a plan and steps in place to help mitigate impacts of a decreased income is essential for all of us. There is no denying that having a plan in place well in advance will help alleviate some of the stress. Remember that doing nothing only compounds the problem and there are ways each of us can trim our budgets in preparation for any work stoppage. There are ways to have food stocked up in reserve and shopping for deals or in bulk will help.
If you are having difficulties doing this, there are several sources of support to help you including reaching out to some of your friends at work for tips, moral support and ideas as to what works for them. We have the use of the Employee Assistance Program to turn to at least until there is a work stoppage and there is the option of getting help from our “Union Counsellor” who has a wealth of knowledge as to local resources that may be able to provide assistance or support if a work stoppage happens. No one is in this alone so please reach out for assistance if you need it.
As we go through this round of bargaining it is very important to remember that each of us can contribute to what the outcome will be by taking some form action to support the bargaining team. On January 15th many of your showed up for our show of solidarity event at 1055 Princess and MCB. Again I thank you for your participation and invite you to come out again very soon. Details will come out tomorrow on this. There are other ways to lend your support such as writing your MPP and expressing how you feel as both an employee in the OPS and a taxpayer of this province. You can write to the bargaining team at the e-mail address shown on the bargaining page of the OPSEU site. You can take part in information pickets and events at other OPS locals as your time and schedule permit. Participate I province wide days of solidarity as scheduled by the bargaining team and encourage those who may not understand the importance of what we are doing to become more aware and involved for their own benefit. Being active and involved will help keep your focus on what can you do to help make a difference in the outcome as opposed to just spending time dwelling on what you cannot change without some effort. An active engaged membership is not what the employer wants to see. But that is what will give all of us all strength to get through this and come out stronger in the end. Who among you was not proud of what we accomplished two weeks ago?
In closing I urge you to avail yourself of help either directly or through other sources as we go through this process and remember that you have a strong LEC supporting you (that I am very proud of) and we will make the best darn preparations for a work stoppage possible so that if it comes to that, there will be very little chance of additional negative impacts to all our members.
Thank you all for taking the time to read this and please help as best you can or ask for help as we go through this.
President, OPSEU Local 468