Past to the present to the future
The offer vote is now less than a week away. The bargaining team has done a very good job of fighting off a major list of concessions, but at what cost?
Back in the spring of this year I posted a piece regarding our contract and what it can mean from the past to the present to the future. I stated that in my opinion, when we started in the OPS we did not earn the fruits of the hard won contract that was shaped by the efforts and sacrifices of those who preceded us. Becoming OPSEU OPS members was a “gift” from those who came before us and that in my mind, we had an obligation to help maintain what was gained in the past for those who would come to be OPSEU OPS members in the future.
Mr. Dylan Linegar of the bargaining team as a Region 4 representative has shared with us a message and a presentation that explains why he was one of two dissenting voters for the tentative offer. In what Dylan wrote he specified that part of the offer was of questionable legality regarding mandatory rehabilitation and the Human Rights Code. In his statement he said that is part of why he was against accepting this tentative offer. I agree and respect Dylan for his honesty and respect for doing what is right in spite of the odds against him and I do agree that we cannot accept anything that disadvantages those among us who truly deserve the help and support we should be giving them not only as union members, but as citizens of our province. Human Rights should never be sold out or compromised.
Further to this concern Dylan also stated that we are also selling out the future for new and future OPSEU members. The articles on pay grid freezes and severance pay are among the major concerns he has as examples of what will be a negative impact for new members going forward. It is with ideas such as this at the forefront that I wrote my piece on protecting the OPS contract “legacy”.
Never have I ever wanted to benefit from someone else being disadvantaged. Never have I wanted to be part of a two-tiered system for benefits or severance. At the core of what being part of a collective group is the commitment that everything is the same for all. Even in the preamble of our agreement it clearly says that “2. It is understood that the provisions of these Agreements apply equally to all employees. . . “.
Anything less than being equal puts us in situations where we will find ourselves in opposition to each other as we try to protect what each may have or gain. I personally do not want that. I am not happy accepting proposals that allow me to benefit while taking away the same things I have earned and appreciated as part of the “gift” from those who came before me have made possible.
I totally get and appreciate the stress and strain bargaining has on all of us. I totally get that none of us wants to be part of any work stoppage. And I totally get that most people will feel that if we do not accept this offer, we are screwed. Well guess what? That was the same feeling the majority had when this all started and the bargaining team asked us to give them a strong strike mandate. And to the credit of the membership – you did.
I know from a few hundred discussions with members over the last 10 months that most people thought we would be forced out on strike before now. But due to hard work from the bargaining team, long difficult hours by local executives (including ours – Thank you all!) and the dedication and strong support of the members as a whole, that has not happened. Pressure has been applied and it has resulted in positive change from the initial offer of the employer. You, the members of OPSEU have made that happen. Many letters to MPPs, visits to their offices, information pickets and showings of solidarity have been able to have a great impact on what has transpired. I commend and congratulate you all.
Now when the time comes to vote, you get to decide, has it been enough? Has the current offer shown you that you are respected and that your co-workers and other OPS members are as well? Does it come close not only to what you feel is fair, but does it represent what you hope and believe the OPS value of FAIRNESS represents? If you can see the way this contract will impact people doing the same work, same classification, yet in different ways as being fair, then you really should look again. The employer through it’s many efforts to inform and educate us on diversity and acceptance of others talks about things being equitable, yet paying and supporting it’s workers under different compensation schemes seems a lot like a new way to discriminate and create a pay equity problem. As union members we should always support “equal pay (compensation) for equal work (compensation)”.
We and the bargaining team know that the employer is using nothing but unfounded allegations and excuses to justify what they want to do to our contract. We can stand across from any person in upper management or MPP and say “I call bullshit”. And we can prove it. The question now before us is do we just accept it or do we send a message and say, not good enough? Thank you for your first effort at coming back to reality, but we are not your scapegoats, we are not the problem that has led to money issues for this province, you and the elected members of the ruling party are and for that reason you have to fix it but not at our expense or the expense of the people of this province. The people who most need the services that we provide on a daily basis (and in many cases did provide before funding cuts and mismanagement created by our leaders led to them being lost) more so than any corporation, bank or other financial entity has ever needed a tax break, grant or public bailout.
Good solid economic research and math has clearly demonstrated that a well maintained and supported public service system is an economic benefit and does provide value for the money. Clearly we are not part of the problem, but dealt with in a fair and reasonable manner, we are part of the solution.
So before you vote, I only ask that you consider what you stand for and does the vote you will cast reflect that? As you may have gathered from reading this and my post in the past, I cannot support the offer as it stands and I will be voting to reject this offer.
President OPSEU Local 468