Dear CAAT Support Bargaining Unit Members:
Many of our OPSEU members have asked why the union took the position not to count the ballots on Sept. 18, the date of the ratification vote on our tentative contract settlement with the colleges. The following explains why OPSEU did not do the count and why we believe there needs to be a change in the practice.
- In every unionized workplace in Ontario, the union and its members are solely responsible to organize, conduct, count and communicate the results of votes that occur concerning the collective agreement negotiated on behalf of its members. The ONLY unionized workplaces that are required to have their votes supervised by the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB), are the community colleges. This is so, despite the fact there has NEVER been any instance of, nor an allegation of , any form of impropriety concerning a vote at the colleges or, for that matter, any other OPSEU bargaining unit.
- The ONLY workplaces in Ontario where the OLRB permits managers to be present at a voting poll and to be present at the count of the ballots are the colleges in Ontario.
- The ONLY workplaces in Ontario where the management group asserts that it should communicate to union members the results of a union contract vote are the colleges in Ontario.
- OPSEU believes that the College Employer Council, which negotiates on behalf of the colleges, may have instructed every college to have a management person present at the polling stations to observe the conduct of the vote. Although some college employers chose not to do so, they did assert their right to be there, and may be there following the next round of bargaining.
- OPSEU considers that this invasive and provocative behavior by the college council and that it was sanctioned by the OLRB was, to OPSEU, the last straw. OPSEU members decided that enough was enough! OPSEU negotiates more than 500 collective agreements. In ALL of those other workplaces, OPSEU organizes, conducts, counts and communicates the results of ratification votes without any employer interference. Over OPSEU’s strenuous objections, the OLRB gave us procedures that allow the employer to participate in our polls and our vote counts. Because these votes take place on their premises it is not possible to exclude them from their own buildings. There was not sufficient time for us to relocate the polling locations.
- Therefore the only way to exclude the employers from our unofficial counts was to not tally the votes. The council will be allowed a representative scrutineer at the official count (at the OLRB).
Many members feel intimidated by the very fact that management was perched there, observing voters as they exercise their right to cast a ballot. It was reported that some managers were crossing names off of their own lists as our members voted. (Remember that it is the college which provides the voters’ list) Why are they there? Why does college management have an interest in who votes (and who does not?). How does the college employer use this information?
Why is it that the college employers, alone among all other employers in Ontario, (including the provincial government itself) are afforded this unprecedented opportunity to “spy” on their own employees?
- Contract votes belong to the union and their members – not management. It is time to stop this undemocratic practice inside Ontario’s colleges. It is time OPSEU members were treated like all other unionized workers in the province. OPSEU recognized that the college support vote was much less controversial than the faculty ratification vote (which could end up being voted down followed by a strike vote), and chose instead to take a bold move and forego the unofficial count and take charge of the ballot boxes.
As originally planned, the OFFICIAL vote count will occur at the Ontario Labour Relations Board on Oct 1. The one percent wage increase is retroactive to Sept. 1, 2014 and will be paid out after the tentative agreement is ratified and the Official vote count is announced by OPSEU.
OPSEU does not believe this is a big inconvenience. But it represents, perhaps, a bigger opportunity to force a much-needed change in the voting system as it is currently exercised inside the colleges.
We want to thank you for your patience and understanding. There are times when we need to draw a line in the sand and take a stand. Let’s hope our move allows us to change the future of voting inside the College system. We will keep you posted on future turn of events and will certainly be communicating the results of the ratification vote on Oct. 1.
Chair of your CAAT Support Bargaining Team
Chair of your CAAT Support Division Executive