Get colleges under control


Dear sisters and brothers,

Ontario’s colleges are out of control.

With all the media glare around the e-Health and OLG scandals this year, the outrageous antics of the Colleges Compensation and Appointments Council – the colleges’ employer group – have mostly gone unnoticed. With the spotlight elsewhere, the Council has been obstructing democracy, misleading its employees, and wasting tax dollars throughout 2009. And Mr. McGuinty has allowed them to.

A few basic facts:

  • In 2008, the government passed legislation to allow part-time and sessional college workers to unionize.
  • Last year, thousands of part-time and sessional faculty signed union cards. They wanted to vote on whether to join OPSEU.
  • The Ontario Labour Relations Board ordered a vote. The vote took place at all 24 colleges from Jan. 19 to Feb. 6.
  • College presidents and the Council urged part-time and sessional faculty to get out and vote. More than 3,600 people did so.
  • As soon as the vote was over, the colleges began to use every legal delaying tactic they could think of. And every day the colleges spend arguing at the Labour Board costs Ontario taxpayers at least $5,000 a day in lawyers’ fees.
  • The ballots are still in the boxes.

College lawyers say the union did not get 35 per cent of the bargaining unit to sign union cards, which is what the law requires in order to trigger a vote. The number of cards signed was far more than 35 per cent, but the colleges have worked hard to make it impossible to tell. Using an old trick called “flooding the list,” they’ve added thousands of people (on paper) to the part-time workforce. These paper employees are former employees who were not working at the time of the card-signing drive. Naturally, they did not sign union cards.

 To add more confusion, the colleges’ employee records are a tangled mess of missing and incomplete information. Under the current process at the Labour Board, untangling the mess could take two more years – or more – before we have an answer.

On Nov. 23, we had our first meeting at the Labour Board to talk about opening the ballot boxes from the part-time support staff vote that took place in October. Sadly, it looks like the colleges plan to use the same list-flooding tactic that has delayed justice for part-time and sessional faculty.

All told, more than 7,500 part-time faculty and support staff signed OPSEU union cards. They’re still waiting for justice.

Meanwhile, in what can only be called a “stunt,” the colleges have given up on collective bargaining for full-time faculty and imposed a collective agreement.

The colleges are willfully obstructing Ontarians’ right to have their voices heard and their wishes known. They are trampling on workers’ rights to join a union and bargain collectively. Democracy is being denied.

Ontario’s colleges are out of control. It’s time Dalton McGuinty did something about it.

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas

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