Part-time support staff at Ontario colleges unionize

Multi-year effort sees 84 per cent of part-time support staff vote to unionize, says OPSEU 

Around 20,000 part-time support staff at Ontario colleges have unionized.

The ballots were cast in a representation vote back in June of 2016. Following a year and a half of the votes being sealed and uncounted, the Ontario Public Service Employee Union (OPSEU) said that 84 per cent of part-time support staff voted to unionize.

In a release, OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas called the unionization “a magnificent victory for part-time college support staff and for all the people who worked hard for so many years to win union rights for them.”

Part of the delay was due to the requirement of the Ontario Labour Relations Board to determine whether OPSEU had 35 per cent of eligible part-time college staff sign union cards. In December, the board determined that the 35 per cent threshold had been met, and it began to count the results of the 2016 vote.

Under the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act, part-time support staff are regularly employed for no more than 24 hours per week or for a non-recurring project in office, clerical, technical, health care, maintenance, building service, shipping, transportation, cafeteria and nursery staff positions. 

There is no date set to begin talks to establish the first contract between part-time support staff and Ontario colleges. The negotiations will bring OPSEU and the College Employer Council, who represents Ontario’s 24 colleges back to the table after the two sides failed to agree on a contract leading to the longest strike in Ontario college history.

Thomas said that OPSEU and the Council are on bad terms but, “when bargaining is over, it’s supposed to be over.” 

“Mature people say, ‘alright it’s over, let’s move on.’ I’m interested in relationship building, I believe it in completely.”

Don Sinclair, CEO of the College Employers Council, did respond to a request for comment by publication time.

OPSEU is also organizing to represent around 20,000 contract faculty at Ontario colleges. That vote, which took place in October 2017, has yet to be counted by the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

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Part-time support staff at Ontario colleges unionize