PSI - Our Future is Public Conference Overview

PSI - Our Future Is Public Conference Overview

by Lorrie Vandersluis

 For those who are unfamiliar with Public Services International (PSI) is a global union federation for workers in public services, including social services, healthcare, municipal services,   central government and public utilities.

 *Founded: 1907

 *Members: 30 million in 154 countries

 *Headquartered: Ferney-Voltaire, France

As many of you know, I am heavily involved in keeping services public municipally, provincially and nationally. COPE/SEPB National delegated me to attend this amazing conference with Luke minded people from all over the world. This was my first international conference. What an incredible feeling it is to work on these global issues, actively participating in making peoples lives better. An incredible privilege and honour.

Attended the second  “Our Future is Public” conference in Santiago, Chile. The first was held in Amsterdam in 2019. Well over 1000 leaders attended this 2022 conference to defend global public services. My focus was healthcare and education. My colleague, Maryeve Boyer, attended “Economic Justice and Public Services”, that included taxation, women and Indigenous workers.

To me, the primary objective is to mitigate suffering. We heard many, many examples of how corporate greed is increasing suffering globally with the abuse of essential services. There was a real desire for health care to be governed by the public to keep accountability, including costs under control.  Privatization is proven to drive costs significantly higher with quality decreasing.

We learned that many other countries are suffering with the same issues with essential services becoming privatized. Sharing stories is critical. A University of Amsterdam professor had never heard of the Walkerton water scandal here in Ontario and will now use this in examples of what can go wrong.

There are very large corporations driving privatization, including private insurance providers, particularly in health care. We are seeing more and more that health care is becoming a global commodity with a sharp increase in health care on the global stock markets. We can not let this happen!  Health care is for all!  A right. We and our health care can not become commodities to venture capitalists.  In many countries the wealthy have much easier access to health care. There is concern this is promoting “survival of the fittest” and setting us back globally on equity issues.  There is a need to have democratic controls.

We had the privilege of a site visit at a public hospital in Santiago, Chile.  The physician lead gave us a personal tour. He did point out the the income discrimination in the Chilean health care system where there is approximately 80% private health care.  This public hospital is not facilitated with radiological equipments like CT, MRI. Chileans would need to go to a private hospital for those kinds of services. They were very proud of their 2 ultrasound machines.  This public hospital felt like a community treasure, with a strong feeling of community ownership.  A real sense of pride was the childcare on the hospital site for site. This is available from newborn to after school programming. Again, it was very clear how proud staff were of this childcare program and not looked at like a liability.

There will be a Santiago Declaration on Global Health Care coming. This will also be presented to the World Health Organization for adoption. There is a World Health Care Summit being held in Berlin this year to further mobilize on this issue. This is the beginning of this project but I do feel that by addressing this with solidarity that we can be successful.

Advised that United Nations has agreed to consider a fair taxation convention to look at global tax architecture.

April 7 has been identified as “Peoples Health Day”.  #ourhealthisnotforsale

This work does not come without risk. Many countries are wanting privatization. Some citizens in this group are at risk of reprisal, including some countries making travel difficult who take part in anti privatization work. All of our correspondence must therefor be encrypted.

There is NO ACCOUNTABILITY FOR PRIVATE PLAYERS. You do not have to look far in Ontario to realize this. Just look at the situation we found ourselves in during the pandemic in our private nursing homes.  The free pass for greedy capitalists needs to stop.  Taking our public services back is happening globally, usually after a disaster like we experienced in our nursing homes.  There are over 1000 examples where services have gone back to public. There is a term for it called “remunicipalization”.  Public, municipal ownership is demonstrating over and over a far higher level of democratic intervention with the involvement of municipalities.

There will be more information coming. We will be working on building knowledge on public ownership.  There are transnational databases being developed collecting and mapping cases across countries and sectors.

Kind Regards,

Lorrie Vandersluis

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LABOUR RELATIONS SPECIALIST - JOB POSTING

The Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union Ontario (COPE Ontario) is seeking a full-time Labour Relations Specialist. COPE Ontario is a grassroots union with multiple workplaces across the province and is seeking to hire a Labour Relations Specialist. The Labour Relations Specialist works with their assigned Locals’ main contact for servicing at the members’ workplaces. Applicants should have demonstrated experience in, and an extensive knowledge of unions and labour relations to assist and expand the union’s capacity through bargaining strong collective agreements and representing members in workplaces.

REQUIREMENTS:

The selected candidate must be able to perform the following duties and other related duties:

  1. Membership Service: The Labour Relations Specialist is a resource person and advisor for members with work-related problems. In this regard, the Labour Relations Specialist shall a) provide assistance and accurate advice with grievances and discipline; b) advise members as to their rights and obligations under relevant legislation and regulations, their Collective Agreement, COPE Ontario constitution and the Local’s By-laws.
  2. Grievances, representation, arbitrations, and other legal matters: The Labour Relations Specialist advises and represents members; investigates, prepares, presents, and represents members in grievances with the assistance of Stewards and Executive officers; and assists with arbitrations, Labour Relations Board (or equivalent) proceedings and makes determinations on the merit and filing of grievances or resolving workplace/policy issues in alternative formats.
  3. Contract Negotiations: The Labour Relations Specialist, in conjunction with the local union, is the Chief spokesperson for sub-local bargaining teams, and is the lead for all tasks associated with contract negotiations, including research, drafting of contract proposals, bargaining, organizing around the bargaining process, conciliation, mediation, and preparation for job action.
  4. Resource to the Local’s Executive: The Labour Relations Specialist is a resource person and advisor to the local Executive and assists it in the carrying out of its duties. The Labour Relations Specialist shall provide support and mentorship of local executives and stewards. The Labour Relations Specialist will, unless otherwise advised, attend monthly Executive meetings, and shall report to the meeting, as deemed appropriate by the Executive. When requested, the Labour Relations Specialist shall attend membership and sub-local membership meetings, and Local committee meetings. Help organize general membership meetings, steward meetings, joint labour- management meetings, and arrange on-site location unit visits.
  5. External Liaison: The Labour Relations Specialist, in conjunction with the local union, is a liaison between the Local and the Local's Employers and other affiliated groups, including unions, political organizations, associations, students’ unions, etc.
  6. Administration and Training: The Labour Relations Specialist will aid the Local President and other officers to ensure the efficient operation of the Local’s Office in all administrative matters. Conduct workshops, presentations, and training as required.
  7. It is understood that the emphasis placed on the tasks in this job description may vary from time to time based on the needs of the locals. The setting of priorities shall be done in consultation with COPE Ontario’s Director.
  8. This job requires the employee to travel to different parts of the province and to work evenings and the occasional weekend as required. The workspace is flexible and the office space available is sometimes shared.

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On 12 February 2024, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld a decision that the wage-restraint legislation known as Bill 124 was unconstitutional. In a majority decision, the court affirmed a 2022 ruling which found that Bill 124 interfered with the freedom of association guarantee under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Ontario Court of Appeal also found that, as a result of Bill 124, “organized public sector workers, many of whom are women, racialized and/or low-income earners, have lost the ability to negotiate for better compensation or even better work conditions that do not have a monetary value.”

MENTORSHIP PROGRAM 2024-2026 GUIDELINE AND STEPS

This program is designed to enable skill development for COPE Ontario members that will prove useful in the various sectors that COPE Ontario represents. Participants will gain knowledge and experience to ensure they grow and learn how best to strengthen our union while serving its members. Successful applicants chosen for the Mentorship Program will be trained in various positions including but not limited to becoming: a Labour Relations Specialist to cover all sectors, or a specialist in Healthcare or Education; Benefits Representative; or Organizer. Opportunities will also be available to become Instructors/Facilitators specializing in a variety of topics and areas of labour priorities. Locals of COPE Ontario will be responsible for ensuring all necessary arrangements are made for their member’s lost time. It is expected that the cost of lost time will be shared by all three parties: the Local Union, COPE Ontario, and the participating member.

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