Local President – Job Description
As with the head of any organization, the President of the local is looked to for leadership and support by and for the members and they will represent the local membership in committees, gatherings of other locals and unions, and annually at the OPSEU Convention. The President is also expected to be at the front of any situation where the membership needs to be represented in order to protect their rights and their jobs. Because there will be situations where there is the need to make unilateral decisions on behalf of the membership (as permitted by the OPSEU constitution), it is important that the President be knowledgeable and reasonably well versed in the Collective Agreement as well as work policies and procedures.
As the leader of the Local Executive Committee, it is important that the President be able to work with others and be able to delegate responsibilities and duties to the other executive members and stewards. The President is responsible for making sure meetings take place, are productive, are attended by those required, and that they are done in a fair and respectful manner. The President must be able to speak on topics of importance as well as to issues and concerns of the membership including what is happening in regard to dealings with management. In all of these things it is important that the President help preserve and respect confidentiality (where required) of information regarding situations with individual or groups of members.
Good written and oral skills are a must in order to effectively communicate with anyone they may need to interact with on behalf of members. Being able to effectively present a point and support it in a logical and confident manner is a must for promoting the union point of view and persuading others to understand what is required to best serve the membership of the local. There will be occasions where the President will depend on e-mail to help resolve or avoid issues and good writing skills can support the work done immensely.
Whether or not a local meets the requirements for a full-time book-off (the union pays the employees’ wages while they are allowed to attend to union business full-time) there is a heavy time commitment in the role of local President. There will be times where the members you are helping are not available during work hours and there will be meetings, events, and other time commitments that require the President to be available outside work hours. This is in addition to attending committee meetings and participating in meetings with management on work issues or representing members in grievances. If the local does not have a full time book-off there is also the need to attend to their own work and keep up with assignments and duties.
Patience, empathy, and the ability to relate or understand anothers’ issues or concerns are important attributes of the President (as well as with all stewards). As President, there will often be members who approach you as their last resort. The final opportunity to help them deal with whatever issue is the reason why they have need of assistance. The President must be able to accept that not all issues can be solved to the satisfaction of themselves or the members, so they must be able to take what victories they can and put the losses behind them. And most importantly, you have to be willing to do all of this for the members. All members equally. As with any elected post, you are voted in to serve all those whom you are responsible to and not yourself.