OSSTF/FEESO Vice Presidents Cindy Dubué and Rob Gascho, have assembled a Strategic Action Plan to be presented for endorsement at the Annual Meeting of the Provincial Assembly (AMPA) 2019. Below are excerpts from the report.
Many of the member submissions to the Plan for 2019–2020 identified priorities that are best dealt with locally. These priorities reach across all areas of the Federation—from member engagement and communications, to collective bargaining and member protection.
The submissions confirm that we must prioritize local autonomy, capacity building and succession planning. These are ambitious undertakings, and we believe that the actions should take place over a time span exceeding one year. We are proposing a multi-year Strategic Action Plan to allow sufficient time to achieve the objectives.
OSSTF/FEESO understands that the strength of our union resides in the strength of our local leadership. Bargaining units are critical for the delivery of day-to-day services to our members, and successful locals are at the heart of an engaged membership.
Provincial Office will always remain ready to assist local leadership when needed, but high functioning bargaining units that operate with a degree of independence are critical to our future.
Local collective bargaining and implementation are key services. In order to ensure that the future of collective bargaining and ongoing implementation remain vibrant at the local level, we must focus on building capacity through training and mentorship. The new Protective Services Committee and Field Secretary pilot have both been established with these goals in mind.
Bargaining Unit governance
This year’s Strategic Action Plan will focus on improving governance, policies and procedures, and financial accountability at the district and bargaining unit levels. While OSSTF/FEESO has done a great job at training its local leaders on the representation of members through its regional structure and other conferences such as Summer Leadership, there has not been a concerted effort to focus on internal processes in the recent past. This Strategic Action Plan proposes to do just that.
Many Districts and Bargaining Units already have exemplary practices in many areas. That expertise needs to be leveraged and shared. This Strategic Action Plan will also provide more direct tools to local leaders to meet their service imperatives. Assistance will be provided for unit record keeping including training for local treasurers, and web-based financial software will be integrated with Provincial office.
Provincial Office is piloting a new Field Secretary model which provides districts and bargaining units with expertise in a number of areas, including governance. We believe that it is important to highlight governance as an important union priority by actively supporting several initiatives that either reaffirm current best practices or introduce new and improved ones.
Communications is key for any successful union and so, direct digital communications to members will be improved. The quickest, most direct way that we can share information with our members is by email. As part of our ongoing communications strategy, we continue moving our publications online, including Education Forum and Update. The Communications/Political Action Department is continuing to transform our Update newsletter from a monthly paper publication to an always-current website with news items posted online as they are ready. Members would receive links to Update posts on a more frequent basis, along with any other relevant news, publications or notices.
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA)
OSSTF/FEESO has addressed mental health for a number of years through workshops and through the publication of articles and reports on new initiatives. Leaders want to support members who are dealing with mental health concerns, but they require appropriate training to do this.
In the same way St. John First Aid addresses the physical needs of someone who is hurt, the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) workshop addresses the emotional needs of a member in distress. MHFA assists persons who may be a danger to themselves or other, provides help to prevent mental health problems from developing into more serious states, and promotes the recovery of good mental health.
MHFA training will not replace workshops that have already been developed by OSSTF/FEESO. It does not train individuals to counsel, but will give leaders an additional tool for directing members to the help they require. Over the next two years, we will provide MHFA for every president and time-release member services officer.
Grievance/Arbitration module and Member Labour Relations Training
UnionWare is the database used by Provincial Office for dues processing and member information. We have developed a module for tracking grievances that enables electronic filing of all related documents. It has been implemented at Provincial Office and has been piloted in a limited manner at the local level. A database of this nature can only be effective if all bargaining units use it. This would facilitate the tracking of the file at the bargaining unit level and the eventual transfer to Provincial Office.
The software provides search capabilities, notifications of deadlines, automation of certain processes and a permanent and secure electronic database. Ensuring that all bargaining unit leaders are trained and supported, however, will require additional time and resources, and we will plan for a multi-year onboarding of every local leader. The training will include the establishment of appropriate privacy protections for the data gathered. Appropriate processes will be developed for bargaining units with minimal time release and/or no office manager. Ongoing support will be provided by the Secretariat at the local level.
According to the Vice-Presidents, “the proposed Strategic Action Plan is ambitious, but it is focused on improving member services by maximizing bargaining unit leaders’ autonomy and effectiveness. It will be actively supported by Provincial Office, the new staffing model, and the Provincial Executive. Every OSSTF/FEESO department will have specific staff assigned to the various initiatives and the Provincial Executive will monitor overall effectiveness of the plan and modify elements as appropriate. Through investigation, training and support, we believe that a new level of service delivery and local autonomy can be achieved through the strategies in this plan.”