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Algonquin College News

Smokey Thomas delivers keynote at President's Breakfast

August 25, 2016

Warren “Smokey” Thomas says colleges have a bright future if labour and management representatives can trust each other and keep the dialogue open.

The president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, who delivered the keynote address at Algonquin College’s annual President’s breakfast, said that though we “live in times that are very, very challenging and very difficult,” there is reason to be optimistic.

Sometimes, though, this requires a bit of a leap of faith.

“What I’m trying to reach out to both union locals here is to consider some sort of an approach where you take that leap of faith,” he urged. “But that means management must change some behaviours, it means the union must change some behaviours.”

And Thomas said he believes Algonquin President Cheryl Jensen is the kind of leader who is willing to take that leap of faith and who is going to be able to work with John Hanson, President of OPSEU Local 416, and other labour representatives.

“So to Cheryl, I think you’re that type of person — John speaks very highly of you — he says you do have some interesting conversations where you both put your points forward but you find that way to resolve the issue, and that’s what I like,” said Thomas.

Thomas acknowledged that although there was some “bad blood and hard feelings” at the College, it was no different than anywhere else.

“I worry more about a place that has no issues than a place that has a lot,” he explained. “And there’s a reason for that. If there’s no issues, no complaints, no nothing, it means there’s usually suppression — and that’s even worse.”

And he said he had a good feeling about the future, so long as the conversation remains open and the parties involved treat each other with respect.

“So I think you have a positive future going forward by the work you two are doing and I’m hoping that the academic side will come around — but that’ll take time. And it really is, it’s just built on trust,” he said. “I find in life that there aren’t too many problems that can’t be fixed with some good dialogue.”