First off I would like to thank everyone who has stepped up and accepted their positions as stewards and officers for our Local Executive Committee. A good LEC is essential in maintaining a strong local. We do have several people returning in their role as your stewards, and it is very encouraging to see a few new people have decided to join our team. We also have some new LEC officers, well sort of, as most of us are returning, but in a new position. I, myself, Tony Poirier as your local president, Nicole Zwiers is returning in her role as our Chief Steward. Dave Smith is now our Vice-President, and Bill Chilton is filling in my old position as our Secretary / Treasurer. Also joining us as a new officer is Peter Hupka as our Communications Officer to ensure that you, as the membership, can be kept fully informed and up-to-date on the going-ons in our local.

At this time I would like express my sincere gratitude to Debbie Rautins for all that she has done for our local during her many years as our previous president. During her time with the Union we have seen many positive results for our members in what were some very uncertain times, what with a government system that no longer wants to support collective bargaining and is slowly eroding away the mandate of the College system here in Ontario. Through it all, she remained a strong voice for us at Durham College.

It was a real pleasure to be able to work with her over the last 25 years. Her leadership, experience and ability to always maintain her calm demeanor will surely be missed by all of us. It is definitely going to be a hard act to follow, as the saying goes. I hope you all will join me in saying “THANK YOU DEBBIE!” and in wishing her the very best in her retirement… I will do my best to live up to the same standards that she has shown us.

Also, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that the Local is also losing a long time union activist in Ben Kelly, who has decided to step down from the responsibilities of the Local, citing personal reasons. He has served for over 25 years as a local steward and in the capacity as our vice-president. We would be remiss if we did not express our thanks to him for all the time and effort that he has devoted to serving the local. We wish him the best in his future endeavours.

For those of you who may not be familiar with me, perhaps I should take the time to introduce myself. I have been a professor here at Durham College for over 25 years, starting in 1989 down in the old Ajax Campus. I was hired to teach in the new Electrical Apprenticeship program and I continue to do so today. I am a licensed C&M / Industrial Electrician having served a full apprenticeship with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union, Local 353 in Toronto, in which I am still an active member. I was an active Union member during my time with the IBEW, so it was only natural that I got involved with OPSEU shortly after I began working here at Durham.

Like many of us, I started off by taking on the role of steward at the Ajax campus, and have been remained one ever since. Upon the retirement of Sandra Hall, I took on the added responsibility of being the local’s secretary / treasurer for the last several years. My personal feeling has always been that a union is only as strong as its membership, and I wanted to have my say and not to rely on others to make important decisions that may affect my future, so I became involved.

During my time here at the College I have served as the co-chair of the Whitby Campus Health and Safety Committee for four years, did a couple of terms as my departments co-ordinator and currently sit on the ECDAC for the electrical trades, in which I was also the Chair for over 5 years. I was actively involved with Skills Canada and mentored several of my apprenticeship students, in which I had the pleasure of seeing several of them go on to win many medals at the provincial and national level competitions. Outside of the College, I am an executive member of the Ontario Electrical League / Durham Chapter and served 4 years as the Chapter president. I am also kept busy with the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) as a member of the Provincial Advisory Council, which is instrumental in developing the Code rules for the electrical trade in Ontario.

As your new local president, I consider it an honour to be in a position in which I can serve the membership of our local, and I will always do my very best to ensure that all members will be dealt with fairly and respectfully in all matters. I will be making myself available to all members at (both/all?) campuses, in the union office (C-111) on Mondays and one afternoon during the week. (Depending on my fall timetable) and of course anytime at the Whitby Campus. Please remember that I am only an e-mail of phone call away if needed as well. If I am not available, you may also contact any of our LEC members for assistance. I look forward to hearing from you!

In parting, I would like to challenge you, as the members of our local, to get more involved with the LEC. (Even if it is just checking out our web page on a more regular basis).

Please remember that YOU are the Union and our strength comes from all its members. No voice is too small or issue unimportant! We look forward to hearing from you, and our LEC team is at your service… Thank You!

Brothers & Sisters In Solidarity!

Tony Poirier / OPSEU Local 354 President