Isn’t it time to take back our vote?
Every year, thousands of contracts are negotiated in Ontario. In all of these negotiations, whenever the union has a vote – whether it’s a strike vote or a ratification vote – it’s held by the union. The Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) and the employer aren’t in the room.
That’s how it should be.
When workers come together to make these important decisions, they should be free to have their say without their bosses looming over the ballot boxes, watching how they’re voting. That’s a fair process, and it’s the way it works for everyone.
Unless you work at an Ontario college.
For college workers, the process is different. At our colleges, when members get together to vote the OLRB is there to supervise it. Not only that, the employer gets to send HR representatives to watch members vote.
How are members supposed to believe their democratic rights are protected? How are we supposed to participate in important votes without worrying about what management might be thinking of our participation?
It’s time for change. College workers deserve to be treated the same as every other unionized worker in the province. We deserve the same right to run our democratic processes – free of outside interference. And we’re going to demand that right.
We’re going to be looking for your help to make this happen. As the campaign to take back our vote gets under way, we’ll keep you posted on what’s going on, and how you can help. Together, we can make this a reality.
Marilou Martin, Chair, College Support Workers Divisional Executive
Update on the part-time college worker organizing drive
At the end of June, part-time college workers voted on whether or not to join OPSEU. As the six-month mark approaches, those votes still remain uncounted.
In part, this is because the employer is continuing to play games to try to delay the process, which is as disappointing to the part-time workers who signed cards as it is to those of us waiting to welcome them to OPSEU. On top of that, the scale of this organizing drive, the largest in Canadian history, creates its own challenges, delaying the counting of the votes. Sadly, the reality is that for far too many workers, working conditions continue to be unfair while this goes on.
There is some good news, however. The Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) has assigned the Alternate Chair to the file, which is good news. We’ve been waiting for this to happen. Now that we have the Alternate Chair, we can start dealing with the final questions that need to be resolved before the votes can be counted.
At the same time, the employer has also applied for a judicial review to challenge the right of the OLRB to have set the date of the vote in June. There is a hearing scheduled for December 9, and we’ll provide more information once it’s available.
But the fact the Alternate Chair has been assigned means that we’re making progress on our efforts to get the ballot boxes opened. This is the most important goal for us – we will continue to fight to get these ballots counted.
If you have questions about any of this, please send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll continue to answer questions and send updates as new information becomes available, and will post all information online at www.collegeworkers.org.
CAAT-S Logo Contest!
In order to allow time for people to draft submissions and send them in, we’ve extended the deadline to December 31.
Please send your submissions to email@example.com – we will share the logo options we receive with members in the next issue of the newsletter.
Divisional conference – October 1-2
Encouraging new leaders, connecting with the mentors among us
Our 2016 divisional conference was held in Toronto on October 1 and 2. Delegates from all 24 colleges across the province came together to cover a number of important topics, and to celebrate the efforts of all those who worked on the part-time organizing drive.
A new addition to the conference this year was our mentoring exercise, which took participants through a “speed-dating” process to make connections between local leaders and the mentors among us. Participants left with a “passport” book filled with the names and contact information of those willing to provide advice and support on various important topics, and a strong sense of just how much experience members have to offer.
While the mentoring exercise focused on the skills that our experienced members bring to the table, the conference also highlighted the importance of making space for the new insights that can come from engaging new leaders and young workers. Changes to our negotiation procedures passed at the meeting will open up spaces for electing people who have never been on a divisional committee, a concrete action to signal our division’s commitment to making space for new leaders.
We also took time to look at the larger bargaining context, through a review of emerging trends in the use of third-party medical practitioners, and the potential effects of colleges contracting out their responsibilities to manage short-term disability. Presentations from OPSEU staff provided updates on legal research around this topic, as well as recent rulings in a number of key bargaining areas.
Delegates also received an update on We own it!, OPSEU’s new anti-privatization campaign, which is now under way across the province. A number of delegates signed up to participate in the campaign – members interested in finding out more can visit the campaign website at www.weownit.ca.
Finally, with the next round of bargaining coming up in 2018, delegates began discussions about issues that may need to be addressed in our collective agreement in the upcoming negotiations. More information on this will follow in future newsletters, as we look ahead to our pre-bargaining conference in 2017.
Update on college funding formula discussions
Since May of this year, the Ministry of Advanced Education has been reviewing the college funding model. This expedited review held consultations over the summer and took input and submissions as late as September.
Our division made a submission, Funding the Future, which can be found on the OPSEU website at: www.opseu.org/news/last-place-funding-levels-fail-ontario-college-students
We continue to hope that the Ministry will take our concerns seriously, and take action to address the underfunding of Ontario’s colleges.
Our division will be offering four scholarships this coming year worth $1000 each. The theme for this year’s submissions will be labour history. Scholarships are open to all students enrolled full-time at any of Ontario’s 24 public colleges.
More information about deadlines and application details will be posted to the OPSEU website and sent to local presidents when it is available.