The Honourable Deb Matthews
Deputy Premier and Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development
3rd Floor, Mowat Block
900 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1N3
Dear Deputy Premier:
I write to highlight for you, as Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, a matter with serious implications for thousands of workers in our public community colleges.
As you may be aware, the College Employer Council, the bargaining agent for the 24 Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology (CAATs), has taken legal action in an attempt to prevent the votes cast by part-time college support staff, in a representation vote held between June 20 and 30, from being counted.
This legal action calls for a judicial review of the decision made by the Ontario Labour Relations Board to allow the vote. It asks the court to overrule the Labour Board and destroy the ballots already cast by these workers. Though the Council is unlikely to win this review, legal challenges could delay for months, or even years, the counting of these workers’ votes, at a significant cost in public funds.
As you know, the last time these workers attempted to organize in 2009, a significant amount of public money was also spent on legal challenges that eventually resulted in the votes never being counted. Despite this experience, these workers persevered, signing thousands of union cards in a clear statement that they wished to have union representation.
The Labour Board recognized this clear signal on June 13, and ruled that a supervised ballot should be held. As a result, votes were collected at the more than 100 campuses of all 24 public colleges across the province, with the final votes cast on June 30. But before these votes could even finish, the college presidents had already started expensive legal action in an attempt to delay their counting.
I’m asking you, Deputy Premier, to use your authority as Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development to direct these college presidents to stop wasting public dollars to try to delay or prevent this count.
Premier Wynne has spoken at great length in recent months about the plight of precarious workers. The hundreds of thousands of Ontarians in part-time, temporary and insecure jobs will judge your government’s sincerity on this issue by your actions in this case.
These precarious workers are only hoping to be able to negotiate the same basic rights that other Ontarians take for granted – the right to a sick day, or parental leave, or equal pay for equal work, for example. I am sure that your government has no desire to see these workers victimized further by high-priced lawyers paid for by their own tax dollars.
To be clear – I’m not asking you to interfere in the vote. I’m asking you to direct your college presidents to end their interference. Help me ensure that the ballot boxes are opened and these workers’ voices are heard. After more than seven years, and two votes, they deserve that much.
I look forward to your reply.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union
c: All MPPs
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