OPSEU College Support/Soutien. College Support Full-Time.

Ontario College Support Staff (CAAT-S) Newsletter: The Support Report – February 2015

CAAT: The Support Report. The dangers of student internships

Message from the Chair

The dangers of student internships

By Marilou Martin

Although this round of negotiations has concluded, it is far from over.  Having negotiated several collective agreements, I can tell you that in four years’ time the colleges will bring back to the table the one demand that was most important to them in this last round of bargaining: Their need to hire student interns to boost graduation employment rate KPI scores.

Student internships sound like such a wonderful thing for us to agree to, and something that each of us – given our desire to support students – would want our bargaining team to consider. But beneath the surface of this employer demand lurk many dangers for the future for current support staff.

Here are some of the dangers with allowing student interns:

  1. The CAAT support bargaining unit as we know it will disappear if the colleges get the addition of student interns in combination with the Initiatives and Opportunities language.

We are already outnumbered by part-time employees and it won’t be long before every job will either be an I/O, a student intern or part time. What do all of these jobs have in common? They are paid lower wages, most have no benefits or job security and most don’t choose to pay into a pension. (Currently part-time workers and I/Os have the option of joining the pension plan) Therefore the employer also does not have to contribute to the pension plan. The colleges would be able to hire and fire whenever they want to.  

  1. There would be no ability to prevent the hiring of growing numbers of interns

The colleges indicated that no bargaining unit member will be laid off and replaced by an intern: That’s what the Colleges promised when they tabled the language with our bargaining team. The colleges may start off with just a few jobs in a few programs, but it could grow to hundreds. Where would the colleges come up with the money to create that many new jobs?  Although the colleges indicated that no bargaining unit member would be laid off and replaced by an intern, they never indicated that vacant jobs wouldn’t be replaced by interns. That’s exactly how they would do it. You only need to look at what has happened with contracting out of jobs. Our contracting out language says that no bargaining unit member will be laid off due to contracting out, but we all see services that have gone that route. Now instead of laying people off, they do it through attrition and vacancies.  When people quit or retire they will use those vacancies for student intern jobs. 

  1. Internship opportunities for college graduates will be paid little more than the minimum wage received by summer students

As someone who has worked at the colleges for over 25 years, and advocated on behalf of students, as a parent of a young person, and as a unionist who believes in a better society, I don’t believe lower paying jobs are the way to improve our society or create a province where young persons have hope.  I am all in favour of creating opportunities for students to practice their newly acquired skills and knowledge in a workplace: That’s what I do each day at my college.  What would it say about our college programs if the employer hired them at minimum wage and without any benefits? 

Check out the next edition of the Support Report to hear of ways that the colleges could create good jobs for graduates. 

Additional life insurance available

By Janice Hagan, Joint Insurance Committee Chair and Vice Chair of the CAAT Support Divex

Support Staff in permanent full-time and Initiative/Opportunities positions are now eligible to purchase up to $50,000 more in additional life insurance. The total life insurance coverage available to members is now $125,000 including:

  • $25,000 in Basic Life after one month of service
  • Up to $50,000 in Supplemental Life Insurance, where members may choose to purchase from one to five $10,000 units, with the college paying 60 per cent and the employee paying 40 per cent
  • Up to $50,000 in NEW Optional Employee Life Insurance, where members may choose to purchase from one to five additional $10,000 units, and pay 100 per cent.

All new employees hired after December 1, 2014, will be given the opportunity to purchase the additional insurance without conditions, as will employees who elect coverage within 31 days of their marital status changing, or acquiring a new dependent. All other employees may be invited to elect additional insurance, including Supplemental Life Insurance or the new, Optional Employee Life Insurance, after completing a medical questionnaire available from your college benefits administrator. The forms are confidential and will be mailed directly to Sun Life.

Members with critical medical conditions that are not controllable by medication will be denied the option of purchasing additional coverage. In addition, unlike our existing plans, younger members will pay less than older members. Those under 34 years of age will pay approximately 52 per cent of the standard cost of existing optional life insurance; and those over 60, will pay 163 per cent more. The medical restrictions and age-banded premium rates are necessary in order to reduce financial risks while the new plan is being established, and to avoid sudden and drastic increases in premiums over the first five years.

The chart below outlines the different costs of life insurance plans available, as of February 1, 2015. An additional 8 per cent in provincial sales tax will also apply.


Employee Pays

College Pays

Insurance Plan


% Paid of Premium

Monthly Premium

% Paid of Premium

Monthly Premium

Basic Life






Supplemental Life

Each Unit






Max Coverage




Optional Employee Life – Each $10,000 Unit


Under 34






Age 35-39




Age 40-44




Age 45-49




Age 50-54




Age 55-59




Age 60-64




Optional Employee Life – Max Coverage

Plus Supplemental Life

Under 34





Age 35-39



Age 40-44



Age 45-49



Age 50-54



Age 55-59



Age 60-64



For more information about the plans, please contact your benefits administrator, or the Support Staff Joint Insurance Committee (JIC) page on OPSEU.org. If you wish to appeal a decision by Sun Life regarding your eligibility for the new plan, or any other benefits issue, contact a member of the JIC, including:

Janice Hagan (Chair)    janice.hagan@opseulocal561.ca

Mary Cator (Vice Chair)    marycator@gmail.com

Richard Belleau   opseu731@tbaytel.net

Dan Brisson   danbrisson@fibreop.ca

Sun Life changes to critical illness insurance plan

By Janice Hagan, Joint Insurance Committee Chair and Vice Chair of the CAAT Support Divex 

Sun Life is adding five critical illnesses to the list of eligible conditions members can claim benefits for, under our Critical Illness Insurance Plan. These include:

  •     Aplastic anemia
  •     Bacterial meningitis
  •     Heart valve replacement or repair
  •     Loss of limbs
  •     Motor neuron disease

There will also be changes to some definitions. While we do not have all the details, the changes we have seen are favourable to our members. One such change will allow members to transition their group critical illness insurance to an individual plan with Sun Life, if they leave the college. More details will be available from Sun Life soon, and will be made available through Sun Life’s Focus Update Newsletter, and our College Benefits Administrators. We will circulate this information to you as soon as possible.

Changes to retiree benefits plans

There are two big changes in the benefits available to college retirees. First the bad news: as of February 1, 2015, Dependent Life Insurance will no longer be available to new retirees. Existing retirees will lose coverage for Dependent Life as of January 31, 2016.

The good news is that a new “Dental Plan 2” has been created for CAAT Retirees, effective February 1, 2015. This plan is identical to the dental coverage that was available to retirees who were enrolled in the Extended Health Care (EHC) Plan 2. The difference is that Plan 2 has been altered so that the Dental coverage is now an optional, stand-alone plan. After February 1, all new retirees, and retirees with existing dental coverage, will be able to elect coverage of extended health care and dental plans separately.

Choices will include:

  • Dental Plan 1, with similar coverage to Active Employees’ Dental Plan
  • Dental Plan 2 with no coverage for basic services, such as cleaning, or orthodontics, and reduced annual maximum coverage.
  • No Dental Coverage

Full plan details and premium rates are available from your benefits administrator.

Know your PDF and your rights

By Naz Binck, Joint Classification Committee Chair and CAAT Support Divex member.

Do you know the contents of your job description, entitled the “Position Description Form” (PDF)?  Is your PDF up-to-date?  Does it accurately reflect what you do?  If not, do you know the steps to rectify this? 

In March 2007, our new classification system came into effect.  This classification system was developed and agreed upon by both the Council (representing the Colleges) and OPSEU.    This classification system applies to all CAAT Support Staff positions at all 24 colleges.

Our PDF has 11 factors, summarized below.


Factor Name

Brief Factor Description



Formal as well as additional education needed to perform the duties of the position.



Typical number of years of experience needed.


Analysis and Problem Solving

Level of complexity involved in analyzing situations/information/problems and in developing options, solutions, or other actions.


Planning and Coordinating

Organizational and/or Project Management skills


Guiding and Advising Others

Assigned responsibility to guide or advise others.


Independence of Action

Level of independence or autonomy of the position.


Service Delivery

Looks at the service relationship of the position.



How and what type of information you need to communicate.


Physical Effort

Degree and frequency of physical effort required for the position.


Audio/Visual Effort

Degree of attention or focus, with and without interruptions.


Work Environment

Environment in which the work is performed and the extent to where there exists undesirable or hazardous elements.


If you believe your job is improperly evaluated, you have the right under Article 18.4 of the Support Staff Collective Agreement, to grieve the evaluation.  Contact your local union representative and discuss next steps.  They will assist you with preparing and submitting your grievance.

Detailed preparation checklists, flowcharts, and other resources are available in the “Quick Arbitration Guidelines for Stewards Manual”.  Work with your Local Union Representative on preparing your examples and arguments utilizing the manual as a resource.  Your representatives on the Joint Classification Committee (JCC) developed and modified the Manual to assist Support Staff and their Stewards in preparing for classification grievances and arbitrations.

Retroactivity of pay increases is to the date of filing a grievance, per our Collective Agreement.  Some members choose to participate in an informal appeal process outside of the Collective Agreement.  While this process is sometimes successful and less formal, it can also be a lengthy one, and retroactivity may not go back to the beginning of the appeal process, but to the grievance filing date, unless there is prior agreement in writing.

Your Union Representative can support you through the process and assist you with your grievance preparation.  You know your job best and a large part of this preparation will need to come from you.  The Grievor and Union Representative will work collaboratively on determining which factors to grieve, and preparing your case.

Step 1

Once the grievance is filed, the College has 14 days to convene a meeting with the Grievor and a Local Union Representative.  The College shall ensure that the current PDF is provided at least 5 days (excluding weekends or holidays) prior to the Step 1 meeting. 

Review the PDF with your Union Representative in advance of the Step 1 meeting, and thoroughly prepare your notes regarding any areas of the PDF that you are not in agreement with.  Preparation is paramount.   Ensure you go to the meeting prepared with specific disagreements you have with the content of the PDF. 

Also bring to the meeting the point rating by factor as you will need to exchange rating sheets with the employer.  The Collective Agreement states that the grievance cannot proceed further until you have provided the College with your specific disagreements and the point rating by factor.

Be prepared to have a discussion at the Step 1 meeting to resolve any differences with your employer.  The College shall give you their decision in writing, within 14 days of the Step 1 meeting. 

Do you agree with the content of the PDF? 

Where the grievance has not been resolved at Step 1 but there IS agreement regarding the content of the PDF, the matter may be referred directly to arbitration after Step 1.  This referral is always given in writing to the College within 14 days of the date the Grievor received or should have received the College’s decision at Step 1. 

Step 2

If the grievance has not been resolved and where the Grievor is NOT in agreement with the content of the PDF, the grievance is referred to the College President within 14 days of the Step 1 response as noted above.  The President (or their delegate) has 14 days to convene a meeting, and 14 days thereafter to provide a decision in writing. 


Should the grievance not be resolved at Step 2, the matter may be referred to arbitration.  Written notice shall be provided to the College (and OPSEU) within 14 days of receipt of the College’s decision at Step 2.

We have designated Classification Arbitrators who are trained and must undergo re-orientation, conducted jointly by Management & Union Representatives of the Joint Classification Committee (JCC), every 2 years. 

Our expedited classification arbitration process is intended to be informal and non-legalistic. Up to three Management Representatives and three Union Representatives may attend the hearing.  There are specific timelines and requirements with respect to arbitrations, which are outlined in Articles 18.4.3 & 18.4.4.

Don’t shy away from ensuring that your PDF accurately reflects what you do.  Your pay is based on that.  Contact the steward in your local, who is responsible for assisting with classification grievances, whenever in doubt.

Solidarity with OPS bargaining

CAAT Support members stand in solidarity with our 35,000 OPS sisters and brothers during their difficult bargaining. So many of you have come out to join these workers and offer your support at information pickets and rallies across the province. That is what being part of a union is all about: Being there for each other. Please continue to join the members at rallies, and if necessary, picket lines. Read the information sheets and talk to family members and friends about the issues facing public sector workers in your communities. In four years we may need their support during our negotiations. United we stand, divided we beg.

Upcoming events

CAAT Support Divisional Meeting

March 28-29, 2015

Regional meetings

April 18, 2015

OPSEU Convention

May 7-9, 2015

Contributions are welcome!

The CAAT Support Divisional Executive welcomes ideas for articles. Tell us what you would like to know about and we will write something. Please send your ideas to Marilou Martin, Chair, CAAT Support Divisional Executive at mariloumartin@rogers.com

Your College Support Divisional Executive Committee Members

For more information on the work of the Divisional Executive, please contact the OPSEU committee member assigned to your college or committee.

Marilou Martin
Chair, Local 557, George Brown College,
Email: MarilouMartin@rogers.com

Janice Hagan
Vice-Chair, Local 561, Seneca College,
Email: Janice.hagan@opseulocal561.ca

Florry Foster
Member, Local 137, St. Clair College,
Email: unionopseu@gmail.com

Naz Binck
Member, Local 137, St. Clair College,
Email: nazbinck@hotmail.com

Richard Belleau
Member, Local 731, Confederation College,
Email: opseu731@tbaytel.net

Tracy MacMaster
1st Alternate, Local 561, Seneca College,
Email: tlmacmaster@yahoo.ca

Connie Collins
2nd Alternate, Local 137, Centennial College,
Email: wallc@cogeco.ca

Donald Wright
3rd Alternate, Local 557, George Brown College,
Email: donaldwright@rogers.com

Tom Wilcox
4th Alternate, Local 245, Sheridan College,
Email: tw@mac.com

Authorized for distribution by Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President