Effort to unionize part-time college workers moves to Ontario Labour Board

OPSEU needs 35% of workers to get ratification vote

This story has been updated with a comment from Marilou Martin, president of OPSEU Local 557.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) announced on Monday that it filed an application to represent part-time college workers as a bargaining unit. As part of regulations outlining unionization efforts at Ontario colleges, 35 per cent of employees must sign union cards in order for the process to move to a vote.

“We have a great team here at George Brown and we were really pleased by the response we got from part-timers,” said Marilou Martin, president of OPSEU Local 557, which represents support workers at George Brown. “Part-timers in the college system know that they are being treated unfairly, and this union drive gives them something positive they can do about it,” Martin added.

“Our organizers have won the support of clerical staff, peer tutors, IT professionals, and workers in dozens of other jobs that make our colleges work,” said Smokey Thomas, president of OPSEU. “We are honoured by the trust they have put in us.”

The College Employers Council (CEC) represents Ontario’s 24 public colleges in their negotiations with unionized staff. If OPSEU is successful in unionizing part-time support staff at colleges in Ontario, the CEC will be negotiating with the union in the next round of collective bargaining with part-time college workers.

David Brook, chief executive officer with the council said they have received OPSEU’s application, and is currently going through it to determine whether the union has reached the 35 per cent threshold of signed cards.

“We want to ensure that all college employees are going to make their own decisions with respect to whether or not they wish to join a union, or join OPSEU,” Brooks said. He added that while the CEC is currently reviewing OPSEU’s application, whether or not the unionization effort moves to a vote is ultimately determined by the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB).

Typically, once the OLRB receives a union certification application, it takes five to seven days to process and determine whether or not to go ahead with a vote for employees. Because part-time college workers in Ontario number in the thousands, and are spread throughout the province, a spokesperson from the OLRB said that processing OPSEU’s application will take longer than usual.

OPSEU launched its latest effort to unionize part-time college workers in the province with an announcement at the Waterfront campus on Sept. 1, 2015. The union had previously attempted to unionize part-time college faculty in 2008.

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Effort to unionize part-time college workers moves to Ontario Labour Board