Victory for precarious workers: Thousands of college part-time support staff join OPSEU after mammoth organizing drive

OPSEU College Support / SEFPO College soutien

Toronto – The largest union organizing drive in Canadian history has resulted in roughly 20,000 college part-time support staff voting to join the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).

An historic vote count at  the Ontario Labour Relations Board that capped the union’s 14-year struggle on behalf of precarious workers who have little or no job security, confirmed that part-time support staff have voted overwhelmingly to join OPSEU.  84% of the ballots counted were cast of in favour of joining OPSEU. 

The supervised vote at all 24 Ontario community colleges was held in June 2016, but legal wrangling by the College Employer Council kept ballots from being counted until just this week.

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas called it “a magnificent victory for part-time college support staff and for all the people who worked hard for so many years to win union rights for them.”

“The union movement is back and stronger than ever.  We fought off an onslaught of right wing reforms but at the end  of the day workers understand clearly the union advantage when it comes to inequality, injustice and a fair and productive workplace.”

OPSEU has long represented full-time staff at the colleges, but it was illegal for part-time employees to organize. Only after a concerted campaign by OPSEU, beginning in 2004, did the provincial government amend the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act (CCBA) in 2008 to grant them the right to unionize. 

“It truly is a dream come true for OPSEU members,” said OPSEU Divisional Executive Chair, Janice Hagan. "We can’t wait to welcome these new members to our union.”

“This has been a long and costly struggle, but it was well worth it to improve the working conditions of  thousands of people across Ontario,” said President Thomas. “It’s a shame that the College Employer Council spent millions of taxpayer dollars on high-priced lawyers to try to prevent these workers from exercising their rights. The fact that we overcame their resistance only makes this victory all the sweeter.”

OPSEU also mounted a province-wide organizing drive to represent more than 20,000 contract faculty in the colleges. That vote, which took place in October 2017, has yet to be counted by the OLRB.

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931