November 28, 2007 - No. 194
Review of Ontario Colleges Collective
Beware the Aims of the Whitaker Commission
• Beware the
Aims of the Whitaker Commission
• Let Us Together Take a Bold Step in Defence
of the Rights of All - David
Starbuck, OPSEU Local 655, Cambrian
• Smash the Silence! Why I Am Fighting for a
Union - Part-Time Ontario
• OPSEU Press Releases
• Brief to
Whitaker Commission -
Marxist-Leninist Party Club (PDF)
Review of Ontario Colleges Collective Bargaining Act
Beware the Aims of the Whitaker Commission
The Whitaker Commission Review of the Colleges
Collective Bargaining Act (CCBA) is giving new meaning to
"transparency" and the "Third Way" of the McGuinty Liberals. Any notion
that the Ontario Liberal government's agenda for restructuring
collective bargaining for Ontario community college
employees is being shaped by public consultation is dead in the water.
The Whitaker Commission Review of the Colleges
Collective Bargaining Act was appointed by the McGuinty
before the beginning of the Ontario election campaign. Its stated
aim is "to determine how best to proceed with the proposal to extend
the right to collective bargaining
to part-time college workers in Ontario." Public hearings were
scheduled in four Ontario cities before the Commission is to report
its recommendations to the government. However, the first two public
hearings scheduled for Algonquin
College in Ottawa on November 20 and Fanshawe College in London on
November 25 had to be cancelled. There was simply insufficient time for
adequate briefs to be submitted to make the "public" hearing credible.
The November 28 hearing
at Centennial College in Toronto and the November 30 session at
Cambrian College in Sudbury are still on according to the Commission's
At the Toronto hearings, briefs are expected from
Colleges Ontario which represents management at Ontario's 24 community
colleges; OPSEU, which represents full-time unionized academic and
support staff; OPSECAAT, an association formed by Ontario's part-time
college workers to fight for their
rights; student organizations such as the College Students Alliance and
the Canadian Federation of Students; as well as from representatives of
various local organizations and individuals.
In Sudbury, briefs have been submitted by the two OPSEU
locals at Cambrian College, the Sudbury and District Labour Council and
the Sudbury Marxist-Leninist Party Club (MLPC).
Entitled "Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied! Rights for
College Part-Timers Now! Increase Funding for College Education!" the
Brief of the Sudbury MLPC rejects the Liberal's fraudulent modus
operandi which states its "good intention" to recognize rights of
part-time college instructors but
makes this recognition contingent upon a review of the CCBA that "puts
everything on the table," i.e., for renegotiation.
The Brief also decries the misrepresentation of this
Review by the McGuinty government as a public consultation process. The
review is organized and scheduled in a way that ensures that those most
affected by the denial of rights to part-timers, the part-timers
themselves, have no possibility to discuss
or be heard as to the significance of the repressive legislation and
denial of rights.
The Sudbury MLPC Brief states "This Commission was
announced by former Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities,
Chris Bentley, on August 30. The Notice of Consultation was received at
Cambrian College on November 8, eight days before the submission
deadline, and has not been distributed
to most employees. Hearings take place between November 20 and 30. A
draft report is to be submitted by January 4, 2008 and the final report
by the end of January with no extension beyond the end of February.
our opinion, this schedule is far too compressed to provide those who
will be most directly affected,
the 35,000 Ontario college workers, with the time necessary to get
fully informed, to discuss the issues amongst themselves, and to
prepare thoughtful and knowledgeable responses to the request for
consultation. The lack of time is compounded by the request that
'Responses and proposals should be explained with
supporting justification, research and reference to current data,
costing estimates and financial impacts.' In our opinion, this request
cannot be performed within the time restrictions given."
MLPC recommended the immediate recognition of part-time rights by
enacting legislation to repeal seven lines
of the Schedules to the Act and a one-year extension in the proceedings
Review to allow time for college workers to properly prepare themselves.
The fact that the Whitaker Commission was only created
in final days of the previous McGuinty government and has now been
its first two public hearings is proof that neither the government nor
the Commission are interested in solving the straightforward issue
of recognizing part-timer rights. The McGuinty government and its
Commission have seized upon the culmination of the part-time college
instructors' struggle to give itself the appearance of social
responsibility to update the CCBA, whereby all existing arrangements
will now be subject to renegotiation. In this way, the Commission is
providing a smokescreen for the anti-social offensive on education, its
restructuring of the college system and further attacks on all college
educators including full-time instructors. It must not pass!
TML calls on
all the Ontario college instructors go all out to oppose the socially
destructive agenda of the
McGuinty government and to take up serious discussion to work out for
themselves how the issue poses itself. It is only by fighting
collectively that the rights all college workers will be recognized
and provided with a guarantee.
For Your Information: Biography of Kevin Whitaker
Chair of the Ontario Labour Relations Board, the
Colleges Relations Commission and the Education Relations Commission,
Advisor to the Ontario Government on the Review of the Colleges
Collective Bargaining Act, Mr. Whitaker
was appointed Chair of the Board in September 2001 by Mike Harris. He
is a graduate of Queen's University (Bachelor of Physical Education
1979) and Osgoode Hall Law School (1984). Upon being called to the Bar
of Ontario in 1986, he practised labour law in Toronto with a large
national law firm. Mr. Whitaker
spent two and a half years at the Workers' Compensation Appeals
Tribunal in the Counsel Office, the last year as Senior Counsel to the
Tribunal. In 1989, with others, he established a labour law firm in
Toronto and practised for six years before being appointed by Bob Rae
to the Ontario Labour Relations Board
as a Vice-Chair in May 1995.
Since 1995, Mr. Whitaker has worked as a labour
arbitrator and mediator in both rights and interest matters in all
sectors, public and private. He continues to serve as an arbitrator on
numerous collective agreement panels and was appointed to the
Minister's List of Arbitrators in Ontario. He is also Chair
of the Educations relations Commission that oversees collective
bargaining in Ontario's elementary and secondary schools and of the
Colleges relations commission which performs the same functions at
Ontario's community colleges. He was a Vice-Chair of the Crown
Employees Grievance Settlement Board, until
his appointment to the Board as Chair.
Mr. Whitaker has written and lectured widely on a
variety of labour relations issues. He is currently an Editor of the
Labour Arbitration Yearbook and an Executive member of the Ontario
Labour Management Arbitrators Association.
Let Us Together Take a Bold Step
in Defence of the Rights of All!
TML: Briefly, can you explain the
conditions of employment of part-time college teachers and support
staff workers in Ontario, including the denial of their right to
David Starbuck: Ontario colleges are
governed by specific legislation for collective bargaining -- the Community
Colleges Bargaining Act (CCBA). Ontario college faculty and staff
do not come under the Ontario Labour Relations Act. The
the CCBA were intended to deny non-full-time college workers the right
to unionization and collective bargaining. Specifically part-time
academic workers are defined as those who teach 6 or less hours a week.
They are denied the right to association and collective bargaining
under the Act. Sessional workers -- defined
as those who teach 13 or more hours a week -- are similarly denied
However there was no mention in the Act of those who
work between 7 and 12 hours a week and in the mid-'80s OPSEU was able
to organize them as part of the full-time bargaining unit. Generally
speaking, they receive wages based on a percentage of the full-time
bargaining unit pay scale and they
receive a limited benefit package. They don't have much job security
but their conditions of work are much better than the part-time and
In all there are probably about 6,000 part-time academic
employees at the 24 colleges across Ontario. There are probably about
another 3,000 part-time support staff workers and about 10,000 students
who are employed by the colleges in various part-time capacities. That
makes a total of about 19,000
part-time college staff, as compared to about 16,000-17,000 full-time
unionized college academic and support staff workers.
During the late '80s and '90s Ontario community colleges
were starved for funding by successive provincial governments,
beginning with the Petersen Liberals in the late '80s, escalating with
Bob Rae and the NDP and the dismantling of the social contract in the
early '90s and
really becoming brutal when Mike Harris
came to power. He slashed college budgets by 15 per cent as one of his
Over the years, one of the methods college management
has adopted trying to deal with the funding crisis is to hire more and
more part-time teachers to deliver courses, to the point that now in
many colleges, it is probably close to 40 per cent of the coursework
that is delivered by part-time academic
About three years ago OPSEU filed a case before the
International Labour Oganization (ILO), which is a United Nations
affiliate body, stating that the denial of the rights of Ontario
part-timers is against Canada's commitments under international labour
agreements. The case was heard in 2006
and in November 2006 the responsible ILO committee ruled that Ontario
was in violation of Canada's commitment and gave Ontario a year, that
is until November 2007, to report back on what the remedy would be.
About the same time the part-timers, with the assistance
of OPSEU, gave rise to an organization called OPSECAAT, the
Organization of Part-time Sessional Employees of Colleges of Applied
Arts and Technology. That is, they decided to exercise their right to
freedom of association in order to win
recognition of their right to collective bargaining and began an
organizing drive. Finally in June of this year, the Supreme Court of
Canada ruled that collective bargaining rights are protected under the
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
As such it has become untenable for the Ontario
government to continue to deny the part-timers their rights.
TML: The McGuinty government, at the
outset of the recent provincial election, stated its intention, if
re-elected, to recognize the rights of college part-timers to unionize
and collective bargaining and tied that to a review of collective
bargaining for the entire college post secondary
sector in Ontario. Can you elaborate?
DS: About 10 days before the Ontario
election campaign officially began, then Minister of Training, Colleges
and and Universities
Chris Bentley announced that the Ontario Liberal government
would commit to recognize the rights of part-time college employees if
re-elected. They added a very
significant proviso, linking it to a review of the CCBA by Kevin
Whitaker, the chair of the Ontario Labour Relations Commission,
Colleges Relations Commission and the Education Relations Commission.
There are a number of things about this announcement.
First is the timing of the announcement, just a few days before the
election campaign began. Part-timers had been gearing up for the
election. They had gotten a van and painted the words "Respect the
Charter" on it and they took the van to a number
of Liberal pre-election functions throughout the province over the
summer. They made sure that the Liberal government knew this was not an
issue they could avoid during the election.
When the government made its announcement it was really
at the last moment because they had four years in office where they
could have dealt with this issue. It wasn't as if they didn't know
about it. OPSEU and OPSECAAT had raised it with the government and
demanded change. The government
was actually becoming extremely cool towards college part-timers, in
terms of meeting with them at constituency offices and so on in the
last few months leading up to the election.
So what this announcement was intended to do was
essentially get the issue of the college part-timers off the agenda. It
had the potential of being a major embarrassment for the McGuinty
Liberals and would have made it difficult for unions to advocate
strategic voting, when the Liberals were denying
fundamental rights to college part-timers to organize and to collective
bargaining. The Liberals could not justify continuing to deny rights to
the college part-timers.
It should also be pointed out that an intention to
recognize collective rights of part-timers is not the same as
recognizing rights. Even last May, it would have been a simple matter
to introduce a short piece of legislation repealing very specific
sections of the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act.
They could simply have introduced reforms that would have left college
part-timers in the same position as partial load academic employees
which would enable them to get on with organizing themselves and
negotiating a collective agreement.
The announcement was timed to get the issue off the
agenda during the election so the Liberal government would not have to
render account for its actions and lack of action on this fundamental
question of rights over the past four years. More importantly, however,
is that by getting the issue "off the agenda," the aim was to
disorganize the workers. If the workers buy the illusion that the
government will look after them, then they stop organizing to defend
Another thing that is very troubling is that there was
no announcement of funding that is required to fund the recognition of
the rights of college part-timers. It is not just a question of saying
you have rights now, but the college part-timers have to be able to
exercise those rights, by negotiating a collective
agreement that pays wages and provides for working conditions that are
Canadian standard and commensurate to those of the full-time college
TML: Why is recognition of
part-timers rights tied to a full review of the collective bargaining
arrangements for all College academic and support staff in Ontario? It
looks like the McGuinty Liberals are following their agenda of
extending the attack to all college staff.
DS: Again, to be serious about
recognition of rights, the government has to deal with the question of
funding. If funding is not dealt with then recognition of the rights of
one group will be to pit the interests of one section against the
interests of another within the Ontario College
system. Is the government telling us that in order for part-timers to
have their rights recognized, then full-time staff and students have to
It is the assertion of the provincial government that
the purpose of the community college system is to provide the
monopolies with a supply of labour they need at a price which the
government considers acceptable.
The review puts everything on the table, allegedly
because the act is archaic and needs to be brought up to speed. What
has that got to do with recognizing the rights of college part-timers?
Nothing. It suggests that what underlies the review is a plan to
impose new arrangements for the delivery of
post-secondary education in Ontario by attacking the educators in the
name of what is affordable and reasonable. Everything nowadays is done
in the name of being reasonable. It is incredible to see the McGuinty
Liberals pretend to support the rights of all and then blame one
section of the workers for not making the sacrifices required to do so.
If one accepts the logic that a review of the CCBA is
necessary -- and one could argue that because in many ways the colleges
are in need of renewal -- then why limit the review to the question of
collective bargaining? Why not take up the question of the mandate of
the colleges of Ontario? Why
not the issue of governance of the colleges of Ontario? Even though
they are called community colleges they are agencies of the provincial
government. They fall under the terms of the Public Service Act and
similar legislation. The boards of governance are essentially appointed
by the provincial government. Why
in a modern society couldn't we have the boards of governance elected
in a municipal election on the basis of a mandate provided by the
TML: How would you describe the general
direction in terms of College post-secondary education system in
Ontario? An impression is left, in part via this announcement of the
intention to recognize rights of part-timers, that under the McGuinty
Liberals the general direction
is favourable, it is positive but not enough. How one appreciates
the general direction of events for the college post-secondary
education system in Ontario can greatly influence how the staff should
view the upcoming Review for example.
DS: Since McGuinty came
into power in 2003 you have the continuation and latest incarnation of
the anti-social offensive of the last two decades, only now they have
put the velvet glove back on the iron fist.
When McGuinty came to power the demand of students and
faculty was to fix, to
rectify, reverse all the cuts that had taken place in the college
system, especially during the period of Rae and Harris. Basically, for
the first two years of the McGuinty government, things carried on as
they were. McGuinty kept the cuts in place --
continued more or less keeping to the rate of inflation. But he also
froze the tuition fees, which created some optimism that perhaps he was
going to fix some of the damage Harris had done. Within a few months of
coming to power, Dalton McGuinty appointed Bob Rae to conduct a review
of post secondary education
funding in Ontario. Throughout that review, Bob Rae's dubious
credentials as a former NDP premier was given prominence to imply a
the Harris period and that he and the Liberal government had taken the
interest of the students and college employees to heart.
If you look at the report Bob Rae came up with and its
implementation by the McGuinty government, you have $6.2 billion in new
funding for post secondary education over a five-year period, about
$1.2 billion a year on average, with about two thirds going to
universities and one third going to colleges.
In the colleges, rather than this money going to
restore the level of services, conditions of education and employment,
for example with respect to class sizes, student to faculty ratio,
number of hours of instruction per week -- none of these problems were
addressed by the Rae review or McGuinty's
funding program. Instead, the money went into construction of new
buildings and facilities and introduction of new technology and
expansion of college services and programs in specific areas,
particularly in the trades and apprenticeship areas.
There's a poster for Ontario colleges that says,
"Donald [Trump] trained one apprentice
last year, we trained 25,000." What it is saying is that the role of
community colleges is to provide training in apprenticeships to the
monopolies, paid for by the students and their families and by the
public purse. The college presidents openly
say that it is the interests of the monopolies, for example in terms of
training and apprenticeships that drives the agendas of community
TML: What has the McGuinty government
done in terms of college post-secondary education?
DS: The increase in enrolment has been
mainly in trades and apprenticeships. This is a relatively new
phenomena of the past ten years, that a young worker who wanted to
become an apprentice has to go through the community college system. A
decade or more ago, apprenticeship
was primarily through on the job experience and training with a
company. Now, to get basic entry level employment, requires a
two- or three-year college diploma. This is a significant change in the
way that working class youth receive their education and training and
in the delivery of public education
In the '70s and '80s we went through such a high-tech,
robotics, computerization development, industries were not hiring. At
INCO for example, they didn't hire any youth for roughly 20 years, and
when they did, the numbers were very small. This has given rise to a
situation where the old workforce
is retiring and the workforce needs to be renewed. But it is being
renewed under different arrangements than existed before. The student
(and the student's family) has to pay, through tuition fees, an
increasing portion of the cost of training and education, as does the
public purse. But the monopolies are receiving
their skilled and trade workers at less cost to themselves. The
introduction of two-tier wages for new hires completes the picture of
the aim of the restructuring. In many cases, the youth are forced to
take employment in non-union shops where the "associate" system
deprives them of their rights altogether.
Bob Rae gave this transformation its ideological veneer
that the student benefits from the higher income of a skilled position
as opposed to an unskilled position and therefore should pay higher
tuition fees. Rae justified the demand of the monopolies that the cost
of apprenticeship and training should
be borne by the students, their families and the state as a partnership
to make the economy competitive.
The other thing that Rae advocated was a so-called
meritocracy. He was guided by the Third Way neo-liberal agenda which
claims that there is no alternative to the monopoly capitalist system
and so everyone has to make it work. The problem
is that various financial barriers are obstructing some individuals of
merit and this should not happen. The role of the state is not a matter
of guaranteeing the right of one and
all to education, to a livelihood, to contribute to the development and
progress of society etc. Instead it is that the state should ensure
equal access to the competitive grounds, so that everyone has an equal
chance, and those with merit will excel and be rewarded. As for the
rest -- it is your fault either by fate, lack
of ability, or failure to apply yourself to succeed. (Anyone with an
"attitude problem" is immediately weeded out.)
TML: Where is the struggle of
part-timers at the moment?
DS: OPSEU and OPSECAAT have begun one of
the largest union organizing drives in recent history, since the
organizing of the rural postal workers in the 1980s. This is taking
place at the same time as the government has declared its intention to
undertake a complete review
of the collective bargaining arrangements throughout the college system
Now aside from what I said earlier about the McGuinty
Liberals essentially carrying on with the funding regimen laid down by
Mike Harris, and then having Bob Rae do the ground work to justify
tuition fee hikes for students and their families, the most significant
event in college education was the
faculty strike of March 2006.
The key issue there was workload including in-class room
teaching, preparation, evaluation and other administrative tasks. It
was the same issue in the strike in 1984, which resulted in the hiring
of about 1,500 teachers into the college system in the late 1980's,
which was a definite improvement at that
Since then however, with the cuts to college funding
over the past decade and more, management at the colleges have come up
with a number of ways to minimize the number of full-time faculty
required -- for example by increasing class size they didn't have to
give credit for additional teaching hours
or preparation time. The faculty members therefore only get
consideration for the increased numbers of evaluations required due to
the larger class sizes.
In 2006 the issue of workload again came to a head with
the demand for change by the college teachers. The strike lasted almost
17 days. It was marked by one death on the picket line at one of the
colleges in Toronto. College management, backed by the provincial
government, stubbornly refused
to budge. The 2006 strike was a bitter one and it was under threat of
back-to-work legislation that the union agreed to binding arbitration.
March 2006: Pickets at
Georgian College in Barrie, George Brown College in Toronto, Algonquin
College in Ottawa,
Cambrian College and
Collège Boréal in Sudbury.
The basic outcome was a standoff. Neither was faculty
able to improve their working conditions, nor was the government able
to defeat the resistance of faculty and re-define the work loads the
way they would have liked. The model they wanted was essentially to
small number of full-time faculty
acting as coordinators of larger numbers of part-time faculty.
By introducing a review of the CCBA, the government is
trying to find another avenue to introduce new
arrangements that it wants in place for college education in Ontario.
Its talk about "recognizing" rights is to cover up a definite
trap to impose concessions on the entire system as part of the package
"recognizing rights" of freedom of association and collective
bargaining for part-timers. This is not unlike what the post office did
when it came to recognizing the rights of rural workers.
TML: What is the current bargaining
DS: There is one process for faculty and
one for support staff. Both are a province-wide bargaining arrangement.
The McGuinty government put their stamp of approval on
the Rae/Harris legacy of cuts by continuing the funding levels.
McGuinty if you remember cried about being saddled with a hidden
deficit which then made his two year freeze on tuition
fees a magnanimous gesture. However, the aim was revealed when he
appointed Rae to prepare the ground for justifying higher
tuition fees -- "the student benefits
as an individual and therefore should be responsible for the cost of
education" was the line used to say we are all responsible for making
the neo-liberal agenda work.
So with the Review, basically everything is on the
table. I think it very important that all college workers, full-time,
part-time and support staff pay attention to what is developing over
the next few months.
For example, the union is concerned that we might have
local bargaining imposed on us as opposed to province-wide bargaining
and this could create a nasty situation in individual colleges.
There are other significant questions too -- should the
part-timers and partial-load workers be part of one academic unit and
one support staff local at each college or will the Review result in
separate locals? What happens to the partial-load teachers? What about
the students at the colleges? They constitute
over half the part-time college employees. Some of them are
international students. How will they fit into the equation? There are
a lot of differing
views to consider and all sorts of questions that have to be sorted out
in a way that the interests of all those concerned are taken into
consideration and harmonized with the collective as a whole. But none
of this can be sorted out if the basis of the restructuring and harmony
is to make
fighting for rights illegal.
There are many issues and concerns that are not simply
to be left to the Review or the government, or even to union staff for
that matter. These are matters that belong to all of us. This is a very
important new situation. Our union is going to be renewed and on what
basis that is to take place is something
that concerns all of us academic and support staff in the colleges.
At this time I think a union can only really be
a successful defence organization if it is based on modern organizing
principles that everyone participates in making and implementing
decisions. When everyone participates in making decisions, everyone
hears what everyone else has to say and on this basis
of common information, means can be found to harmonize the various
interests of different sections of the workforce which enable us all to
negotiate with the college management and Ontario government from a
position of unity and strength. The fundamental issue is to not permit
any arrangement which denies us the right to fight for the wages and
working conditions we require.
Smash the Silence!
Why I am Fighting For a Union
TML: How long have you worked for the
college and what are your experiences with having no rights in the
Worker: I have worked for the college
years now on a part-time basis following the outsourcing of my previous
long-term unionized job to a non-union workplace. This was part of the
union-busting taking place during the on-going anti-social offensive
launched in the
1990's by the various governments in power.
When I arrived at my position at the college it suddenly
hit me ...
I have no rights and no collective agreement. How then will I survive
this job and how will I function in this workplace without these
essential rights? Upon further investigation I found out that I have
fewer rights than most workers
in the province and do not come under the Employment Standards Act.
What will this mean? What does this mean to the thousands of part-time
workers in all of the colleges?
TML: How do workers deal with these
Worker: You learn quickly to say yes,
yes, yes to
whatever is asked of you. You lose your ability to have your own views
and to be collectively concerned about the day-to-day issues at the
workplace. However, now after thirty years, the college part-time
have spoken out, organized an association and are signing union cards
to take another step forward in the process of fighting for their
rights. College part-time employees want to have a voice, to decide
what wages and working conditions they should have. Together, we are
building a union that will
be able to fight for our interests in the conditions of the 21st
Century. With the support of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union
we have taken up forcing the government to recognize our rights now.
TML: How were you able to discover the
situation facing the other workers?
Worker: Well it was very difficult.
There is silence and misinformation in the workplace. You work beside
support staff positions in the departments or as an instructor. No one
speaks much about either their wages or their working conditions and
are on your own. I met a part-time instructor who stated that she
hadn't spoken to anyone at the college for 5 years! It is difficult to
provide continuity in the delivery of education in such conditions.
Other issues are disturbing like not knowing your health
rights, whether you will get a pension, and soon you learn that you
just cannot get sick or you may not get your job back. You simply
forget about planning your life at all. There is no financial support
at all for these
things. Three years ago I qualified for a pension but I did not even
know why. It turned out that if you work continuously for two years you
are eligible. Who knew? We must modernize these work arrangements.
TML: How are your workplaces organized
Worker: It was not long before I
realized that there
are no rules. The wages are whatever the local management wants to
give. Administrators shine on meeting their budgets and in some cases
their pay is tied to this. The only way they can really achieve the
of the college management is if they meet the budget guidelines and
exceed them through cheap labour. This reflects itself in the following
- The holidays and vacation times when campuses are
closed are not paid.
- There is arbitrary implementation of breaks after a reasonable time
- Progressive pay bands do not exist for part-timers. It is not
uncommon to see people work for 5 years without a pay raise.
- There is no standardized pay.
- Part-time instructors' professional development is often at their own
expense and in some places there is no professional development for
part-timers at all. These things are arbitrary.
- There is no hiring and retaining protocol.
- There is no grievance procedure.
- Working conditions deteriorate rather than improve.
- There are no benefits, not even an attempt to provide 14,000 hard
working employees with a medical and dental plan. We often said that
the student benefit plan would suit us well.
We are not treated with respect.
TML: What will fighting for a union do
for job security?
Worker: We will have the right to
dismissal or discipline which will have to be progressive discipline
outlined in a collective agreement. Individual contracts will no longer
exist. There will be grievance procedures dealt with by the union
representatives and stewards.
If an employee requires support for growth and development, there will
be procedures in place to support their continued employment. I can't
tell you how many times I have heard part-time workers say they want
full-time work. They are underemployed and unable to plan their lives.
There is wording in the Colleges Collective
denying certain part-time workers from any sort of collective
bargaining. Why has the college sector more part-time than full-time
workers? Another very disturbing condition facing the workers is that
there is no plan to convert
part-time workers to full-time. With a union and a collective agreement
all of these issues can get resolved. This suppression of part-time
college workers' rights has suited successive Ontario governments well
and they will have to fund the changes that are looming on the horizon.
TML: What kind of union should the
Worker: Fighting for a union is not
just a matter
of signing cards although I think that the part-time college organizers
and workers should vigorously take this up.
We have to smash the silence in the workplace and begin
all of the issues we face. I am not comfortable with the government
taking the lead on these matters. This is modern society and in the
colleges we teach students to think, to discuss, to problem-solve and
to do it together
as a group. Decisions must be made as a collective, in open meetings
and everyone must be welcome to participate. All points of view have to
be considered and when decisions are made everyone needs to implement
them. With this approach we will be better prepared to collectively
college management and the government. This will take some getting used
to as we have been made to be silent for so long and nervous about
speaking our mind. We must break the silence!
These types of conditions are what makes one feel human
and I think
this describes for me why this issue has resulted in the International
Labour Organization and the Supreme Court stating that we have
collective bargaining rights that can't be denied.
TML: What are some of the other
this employer-employee relationship and how do you think forming a
union will change the situation?
Worker: All throughout the college
you will find
in both part-time faculty and support staff positions people working
for free. This occurs because we do not have a union. Part-time college
workers face the fear of loss of employment having no job security and
so they see that projects are completed on time; on their own time.
Employees attending meetings and doing administration on their own
time, curriculum development, student assessments completed and
support for students; on their own time. This
is why we are saying: It's Time!
TML: With your past experience in a
union what difference did you notice in your working life?
Worker: The most astonishing news was
could be fired at any moment with no recourse, not even access to the
Ontario Labour Relations Board to claim unjust dismissal. This was
outrageous to me given that there are so many part-time workers running
our colleges in Ontario.
TML: What should the part-time college
Worker: Today the part-time and
college workers are being asked to sign a union card with an OPSEU
representative of the full-time college workers in Ontario. Today these
workers are taking up exercising their right to join a union. I
encourage all part-time workers to do this.
Labour rights are human rights. At the founding of the part-time
college workers association (OPSECAAT) just one year ago the OPSEU
representative read the OPSEU's Statement of Respect as they do before
all union meetings. This is what we should do. Fight for the respect
and the dignity we are entitled to.
All human rights are integrated and must be recognized in law. There
can be no vibrant democracy if governments pick and choose which human
rights they recognize and defend.
Presently in Ontario community colleges this dignity,
autonomy and equality and democracy, do not exist and as a result of
this the part-time college workers do not have the legal right to form
a collective that can take up the issues that they face. This means
that if they stick up for their rights,
they are "illegal." With a union, we can deliberate on all sorts of
issues within the workplace such as wages and working conditions but
furthermore we can participate collectively in the building of our
nation and a global community. A union promotes the social and economic
well-being of the whole human
In the colleges there are those who fear that they will
not be able
to run their campuses and their departments, that unionization will
lead to their being unable to meet the bottom line. How can the bottom
line be in contradiction with human rights? It is these sorts of issues
that make me want to fight
for having a union even more!
Why isn't the government immediately upholding these
rights? Why are
they asking us to accept a full review of the Act as part of granting
these rights? Where is the assurance of funding that is required to
implement these rights? We cannot rely on anyone but ourselves to
ensure that we win this
fight for dignity and to influence our places of work.
Without a union we are forced to exist without our
rights and we
face the inhuman condition of being silenced, of co-existing with a
constant threat to our security of living, and of not being able to
sustain a healthy life for ourselves and our families. Without a union
we do not have freedom of expression
in the workplace without the fear of loss of employment. Without a
union we do not participate in decision-making and we have an overall
feeling of powerlessness.
There is no turning back. Presently there is a
deliberate attempt to
undermine this right by the Ontario government saying on the one hand
that they will comply with providing us with this right yet tie it to a
total review of the Act.
We have been told during this fight to have a union that
thirty years were just an oversight of some wording in the Act which
just slipped in and certain part-time workers were "left out "; that
there simply was a loophole that turned out to be financially
advantageous to college management
and government and this led to a bad habit of running the colleges to
be financially astute at the expense of the lives of the part-time
This sort of thinking sets out to disarm the workers and
fight out of this organizing campaign. If this is the case then why not
just correct those words in the Act, add that the Part-time and
Sessional workers have the right to collective bargaining and get on
with it. Why link this right to a review
of the CCBA?
No we should not give up the fight. Our security lies in
We must collectively discuss these issues and see them as they are.
We are not just signing cards but building a union, a
that will stand up to the needs of the 21st century. This requires that
all college part-time and sessional workers united with the full-time
faculty and support staff discuss these issues in a conscious way to
understand what is happening
around them. Only in this way can we take control of our lives and
build the collective required to deal with life as it poses itself.
With this review, the government hopes to pit
part-timers, but full-timers should understand that they are a target
of attack in this review. By fighting together in defence of the rights
of all we can make some headway.
OPSEU Press Releases
It's Time! OPSEU Launches Union Drive for Part-time
and Sessional College Workers
October 19, 2007
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union is calling on
part-time and sessional workers at all 24 Ontario community colleges to
sign an OPSEU union card today.
"Our union is throwing its full support and resources
into winning union representation for college part-timers and
sessionals," said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of OPSEU. "It's
time these workers had access to the advantages collective bargaining
Last night at a meeting of the Hamilton and District
Labour Council, Thomas joined Roger Couvrette, president of the
organization of part-time and sessional college employees, to launch
the largest organizing drive in Ontario history.
"To everything there is a season," said Couvrette, a
part-time professor at Centennial College in Toronto. "The time of
using college part-timers and sessionals as a source of cheap labour is
over. The time for us to get the recognition and respect we deserve is
Don Fraser, president of the labour council, signed an
OPSEU card last night.
Fraser, a retired member of the United Steelworkers,
teaches in the Labour Studies program at Mohawk College. In total,
members of four unions signed cards. The labour council also passed a
resolution in support of the OPSEU campaign.
"The support we saw in Hamilton last night was
absolutely tremendous," said Couvrette. "People right across the labour
movement are seeing that we are working to right an historic wrong."
The OPSEU drive follows a June 2007 ruling by the
Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled that collective bargaining is a
protected right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Under Ontario law, college part-timers and sessionals had been barred
from unionizing. But following the Court
ruling, the McGuinty government said it would extend bargaining rights
The new organizing drive will reach out to more than
12,500 college part-timers and sessionals in the weeks and months
ahead. Organizing committees -- made up of full-time and part-time
workers -- are up and running at every college.
OPSEU has decades of experience in Ontario colleges and
represents over 16,000 full-time support and academic staff.
OPSEU Launches Largest Union Drive in Ontario History
October 18, 2007
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union will
officially launch the largest union organizing drive in Ontario history
OPSEU, which currently represents over 16,000 full-time
support and academic staff at 24 Ontario community colleges, is
inviting more than 12,500 college part-timers and sessionals to sign
union cards now.
"Our union is throwing its full support and resources
into the drive to win union representation for college part-timers and
sessionals," said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of OPSEU. "These
workers have been exploited as a source of cheap labour for far too
long. It's time they had access to the
advantages collective bargaining offers."
The OPSEU drive follows a June 2007 ruling by the
Supreme Court of Canada that collective bargaining is a protected right
under the Canadian Charter of Rights
and Freedoms. Under Ontario law,
college part-timers and sessionals had been barred from unionizing. In
August of this year, the McGuinty
government announced its intention to extend bargaining rights to these
Don Fraser, president of the Hamilton and District
Labour Council and a member of the United Steelworkers, will sign a
membership card at the official launch tonight.
Fraser, who teaches part-time in the Labour Studies
program at Mohawk College, is one of several Mohawk part-timers who
will sign an OPSEU card at the ceremony. "We are seeing enthusiastic
support for our organizing drive from right across the labour
movement," said Roger Couvrette, president
of the organization of part-timers and sessionals. "There is widespread
recognition that this organizing drive, when it succeeds, will right an
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