How SSU’s pension trustees helped prevent a strike

Cheri Hearty
Cheri Hearty

In a new article about responsible pension trusteeship, OPSSU member Cheri Hearty talks about how the trustees of the SSU pension were able to help prevent a strike.

“The cleaners were able to get a fair first contract and they didn’t have to go on strike,” said Hearty in the article, which was published by an international organization called Committee on Workers’ Capital.

If I could be a small part of that ultimate resolution as a fiduciary of workers’ capital, that’s amazing.”

Here’s an excerpt:

Interviewer: Can you describe how collective action by asset owners can enable a fund like yours to drive real world changes when it comes to the integration of human and labour rights in investments?

Cheri Hearty: Just like people join together in collective action to form unions, this is the same type of venture. You’re coming together with a common goal. You’re going to have diversity of thought and diversity of experience and that brings together a wealth of information. If you feel like that small minnow in a big ocean, all of a sudden, you’re ten thousand minnows in the same ocean. Collective action is really important; it can expand the effectiveness of individual trustee action.

For example, about a year ago, we were contacted because there was a labour trouble brewing at a mall in British Columbia. Cleaners were trying to negotiate a first contract at this mall. What they were asking for was the bare minimum: to be paid the average wage of their sector and for a few paid sick days in the middle of a pandemic.

The mall was wholly owned by one of the investment managers that the OPSEU Staff Plan invested with. The idea was to contact the investment manager and ask questions, for example, “What are you doing to rectify this issue, in line with your ESG policy?”

We contacted the investment manager and some other people did as well. We asked a lot of hard questions. I had expected to be brushed off because we’re a small plan, but they made commitments to us about what they were going to do.

It showed me that even though I’m from a small plan, my asking of questions can have some impact. The cleaners were able to get a fair first contract and they didn’t have to go on strike.

If I could be a small part of that ultimate resolution as a fiduciary of workers’ capital, that’s amazing.

Return to work

As our return to the workplace is fast approaching (commencing March 7 for Support Staff and March 14 for Pro-Tech Staff), I’m reaching out to provide you with further information. I apologize for the lateness of this communication, but we wanted to ensure that we had as much information as possible before communicating; we met with OPSEU yesterday in order to raise our members’ concerns, and OPSEU was able to answer almost all of our questions.

You have all received an email today from Ted Panagiotoulias, outlining some important information about the return to the workplace.

In our meeting with OPSEU yesterday, we heard loudly and clearly that OPSEU’s plan for the return to workplace is based on flexibility and understanding, taking into consideration that each employee will have different comfort levels in the return to the workplace; OPSEU advised that it is considering both physical health and safety and psychological health and safety. As such, if you require flexibility or accommodation in the return to work, you should reach out as soon as possible to your Supervisor to request the necessary assistance, flexibility, and/or accommodation. Some solutions may be flexible start/end times, a gradual build-up of days in the office, attending meetings virtually, etc. If you need assistance in this regard, please contact your Steward.

As Ted outlined in his email, all employees (whether permanent or temporary) will continue to be paid if they are unable to attend the workplace due to having COVID-19 symptoms or they need to self-isolate, etc. We were heartened when OPSEU advised us that this has been – and will continue to be – its practice. We also want to remind you that all OPSSU members (whether permanent or temporary) have 10 sick days per calendar year, paid at 100%.

As you may already be aware, OPSEU members are not – at this time – able to physically attend any OPSEU offices (or membership centres attached to OPSEU offices). If you believe that you are being directed or pressured to meet with members in person, please contact your Steward. In addition, OPSEU has advised us that ALL persons entering an OPSEU worksite (including visitors, contractors, etc.) are subject to OPSEU’s COVID-19 Safe Workplace Directive AND its masking policy; if any concerns arise with respect to this, please contact your Supervisor, Steward, Health and Safety Representative and/or email There is a JOHS committee meeting on Monday, March 14th so if you have questions our committee representatives can take those questions directly to the Employer.

I hope that this information provides you with additional clarity and comfort in the return to the workplace.

We are committed to continuing dialogue with OPSEU through the return to the workplace process. If you encounter any issues or have any outstanding questions, please reach out and we will try to get an answer and/or solve the problem.

Stay safe,

Lois Boggs
President, OPSSU

Vacation Approval

Hi everyone,

I’m writing regarding a recent communication to Local Services and the Collective Bargaining Division from Steve Saysell.  I want to clarify OPSSU’s position on the matter of finding your own vacation coverage.

Steve’s statement that “this has been the accepted practice” is false and misleading. 

Article 19.10 (a) clearly states that vacation requests “will be granted on the basis of seniority within a particular regional office or Head Office department.”

OPSEU is well aware of our position on this issue and OPSSU has filed a policy grievance, an individual grievance, and has included this in our Unfair Labour Practice charges against OPSEU.  Just because the Employer has unilaterally and erroneously implemented a direction in contravention of the Collective Agreement for several years does not, in any way, mean that OPSSU has accepted this practice.  OPSSU has in fact continuously challenged this practice since its inception.

Unfortunately, if you want your vacation approved, based on Steve Saysell’s direction, you will need to find coverage until such time as the issue is resolved by mutual agreement or determined by an arbitration decision.

I am saddened that OPSEU continues to issue direction in clear violation of our Collective Agreement.

I will keep you updated as we move forward.

Thanks and take care,


President, OPSSU 

Arbitrator defers ULP pending arbitrations

Hi everyone,

I’m writing to provide an update on the Unfair Labour Practice (ULP) applications. As you may be aware, there was a hearing at the OLRB (by Zoom) on November 13, 2021 before Vice-Chair Maureen Doyle.

At that hearing, the Employer argued that every issue contained within our ULP where OPSSU had also filed a grievance be deferred until the conclusion of all of the grievance arbitration proceeding, including one such grievance that has a first hearing date in 2023; OPSSU argued against such deferral. I should point out that both OPSEU and OPSSU agreed that the deferral request by OPSEU did not include issues from the ULP that had not been grieved.

Please see attached Vice-Chair Doyle’s award; she decided to defer all three ULPs until the conclusion of all arbitrations. Either Party may return to the OLRB within 18 months.

We are very disappointed with her decision because at arbitration hearings, we will not be able to “connect the dots” between each unfair labour practice that OPSSU and its members have had to endure for the last two-and-a-half years.

We have had a discussion with our lawyer as how to proceed and will discuss our options with the grievance committee at our next meeting (January 27). We will likely ask for reconsideration on the entire decision, but – at the very least – reconsideration of the decision with respect to the several complaints that were not grieved.

OPSSU is committed to ensuring we have an open and shared conclusion to the events that have taken place over the last two-and-a-half years.

As always, OPSSU remains open to settlement discussions in the hopes that the Parties can resolve these issues and move forward with improving our labour relations. I personally hope this discussion will take place with Smokey given that these unfair labour practices took place under his watch; however, if Smokey is not interested in engaging in such discussions, then I hope we can have meaningful discussions with the new OPSEU President in April.

Take care and we will continue to update you through this process.

Lois Boggs
President OPSSU

Wellness Committee Members

The Wellness Committee is a delegated committee with members from the Benefits Committee and the Health and Safety Committee.

  • Robin Lostracco (Benefits Committee Member)
  • Frank Ingliss (Health and Safety Committee)
  • Natalie DeHaney-Stewart
  • Cindi Shoot

Accomodation Committee Members

The Accommodation Committee is a delegated committee with members from the Benefits and Health and Safety Committees, as well as one steward.

  • Cathy Guppy
  • Dan Sidsworth
  • Alyssa Walker – executive liaison