GBC can do better for its faculty says union president
“It just doesn’t seem fair,” said Tom Tomassi, faculty union president at George Brown College (GBC). “People are allowed to be sick and two days pay is not that big of an issue.”
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) has filed an unfair labour practice complaint against the college for removing paid emergency leave days which were previously available to contract faculty.
In October 2017, thousands of college contract faculty across the province—including those at GBC—voted on joining OPSEU. But 18 months later, those votes still have not been counted.
Until the votes are counted, the contract faculty are in what is known as a “freeze period,” and the union claims it is illegal for the employer to change any of their working conditions without the consent of the union.
“Stripping paid sick days is an unacceptable change in working conditions, and that’s the basis of our complaint to the Ontario Labour Relations Board,” said RM Kennedy, OPSEU college faculty executive chair, in a statement.
Dave Maharaj, director of total rewards, payroll & HR administration at GBC, was unavailable for comment but confirmed that the college received OPSEU’s application on March 28 and is in the process of reviewing it.
Bill 47, which took effect in December, made several changes to employers’ legal obligations for paid sick time.
Instead of two paid and eight unpaid personal emergency leave days, employers now have to provide just three unpaid sick days per year, two unpaid days for bereavement and three days of unpaid family responsibility leave.
“Some colleges have decided to do better and stayed where they were and George Brown, for whatever reason, made the decision to bring it down to the minimum,” said Tomassi.
Humber College said they “recognized the need” for paid sick days and decided to maintain them, according to a memo obtained by the Toronto Star.
“Contract college faculty members already endure terrible working conditions – they are incredibly low-paid and have absolutely no job security,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas president of OPSEU.
Tomassi said removing the paid emergency days has lowered the morale at GBC.
“I have been at this college for 42 years and I have never seen it (as low),” he said. “It is very difficult to see people smiling in hallways.”
The College Employers Council, which GBC consulted on the matter, was not available to comment by press time.
“We’re confident we’ll get these paid sick days back for the contract faculty at George Brown,” said Kennedy.