College Support part-time members from across Ontario shared some eyebrow raising stories this week about their working conditions with President Warren (Smokey) Thomas and their bargaining team.
“When you think you can’t be shocked, you get shocked even more,” said Thomas, who shook his head in disbelief as members shared their working conditions during an OPSEU telephone town hall where part-time college support members voted on bargaining priorities.
“There’s no question we have our work cut out for us and we’re up to the fight,” added Thomas, who indicated he would personally raise working conditions with some of the college presidents.
One caller questioned why the colleges don’t allow their part-time support staff to take any sick time.
“Why do part-time support staff have to come to work when we are sick? It means we are sick for longer, and then everyone else gets sick too. We deserve sick days, just like any other worker.”
Another caller spoke about the unfair wages.
“I sit across from someone doing the exact same work as me, and I have to work a second and a third job, just to make up the same salary that they are earning. It’s hard to stay positive about my job when it’s so unfair.”
A caller from Algonquin College explained that it was impossible to plan her life when she had no idea what shifts to expect the following week. Since she is paid by the hour, she has no way of predicting her income, and the stress is overwhelming.
Thomas was joined on the telephone town hall with bargaining team Chair and Vice-chair Ted Claeys and Duncan McFarlane, College Full-time Support Sector Chair Janice Hagan and staff negotiator Heather Fathi.
College Support Part-time staff have needed a union for a long, long time. Forever, really. The bargaining process is now underway, and these 20,000 new OPSEU members are mobilizing.
Now that the bargaining priorities have been set, the bargaining team is preparing for negotiations.
Excitement about their first ever collective agreement was palpable during the conference call as members were eager to share their experiences.
“I was truly inspired by the passion that our members expressed,” said Thomas after the the town hall. “The bargaining team and OPSEU staff who took part felt the same way.”