The last thing the labour movement needs at this time is division. Yet this is exactly what is happening due to a dispute between officers of the Ontario Federation of Labour, including OFL President Sid Ryan, and some affiliated unions including the Ontario Public Service Employees Union and its President, Warren 'Smokey' Thomas.
The dispute may result in the withdrawal of Canada's largest provincial public service union, the 125,000 strong OPSEU, from the one million member OFL. The OPSEU Executive Board decided to suspend payment of its dues to the OFL and to recommend that the union vote at its April 2012 convention to disaffiliate. Reasons given for this split include faults in the OFL Constitution which undermine fair representation in the labour body, along with claims that it is difficult to negotiate internal issues with Sid Ryan. Ryan was acclaimed to the OFL top job in Fall 2009.
Non-payment of dues has already led to OPSEU being denied delegation status to the November 21-25 OFL convention. The decision to withhold dues was made minus any consultation with the OPSEU membership. That contravenes the union's constitution which states that OPSEU is responsible for paying its dues to labour bodies to which it is affiliated, and that any decision to disaffiliate can be made only at an OPSEU convention.
OPSEU's withdrawal from the house of labour in Ontario will result in serious damage to the labour movement, which is already under fierce attack by the employers and the state. Working class solidarity and unity in action is now urgently needed. Sadly, instead of proposing a programme for militant action, bureaucrats are dissing one another.
However, opposition to the split is emerging. Socialists and other labour activists in OPSEU are campaigning against the unprincipled decision by OPSEU's EBMs. The Greater Toronto Area Council, which encompasses dozens of OPSEU locals in Toronto, passed a motion on October 19 asking the Executive Board to rescind its decision, and to resume paying dues to the OFL. GTAC also asks that OPSEU's President immediately meet with Sid Ryan to resolve the issues in dispute. Activists know that this bureaucratic spat is occurring at a very bad time, and that our leadership should not descend to the level of personal attacks, even character assassination, in dealing with disputes amongst affiliates. It is a poisonous distraction from the bosses' drive to squeeze workers' wages, benefits and pensions. Workers deserve much better than this from our labour leadership.
> The article above was written by Julius Arscott.