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November 28, 2007 - No. 194

Review of Ontario Colleges Collective Bargaining Act

Beware the Aims of the Whitaker Commission

Beware the Aims of the Whitaker Commission

Interviews
Let Us Together Take a Bold Step in Defence of the Rights of All - David Starbuck, OPSEU Local 655, Cambrian College, Sudbury
Smash the Silence! Why I Am Fighting for a Union - Part-Time Ontario College Worker

OPSEU Press Releases

SUPPLEMENT
Brief to Whitaker Commission - Sudbury Marxist-Leninist Party Club (PDF)


Ontario
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 Government days 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 website.

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.

"In 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."

The Sudbury 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 of the 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 forced to cancel 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.

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Interviews

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 collective bargaining?

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 provisions of 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 their rights.

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 sessional staff.

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 first acts.

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 staff.

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 college 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 their rights.

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 staff.

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 make concessions?

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 people?

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 break with 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 colleges.

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 Ontario.

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 in Ontario.

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 time.

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 have a 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 of "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 structure?

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.

* David Starbuck is a full-time faculty member at Cambrian College, a member of the local Executive of OPSEU Local 655 and chair of the OPSEU Sudbury Area Council. He has been involved in the struggle of part-time college workers for the recognition of their rights for about 25 years, first as a part-timer himself where he had first-hand experience of the inequities and treatment of part-timers. Since 1985, he has worked as a full-time faculty member where he has taken a leading role in the campaign to organize Ontario part-time and sessional college workers, especially at Cambrian College. He has been the Marxist-Leninist Party candidate in the electoral district of Sudbury in the 2004 and 2006 federal elections where he raised the issue of part-time rights as a political issue.

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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 workplace?

Worker: I have worked for the college for seven 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 conditions?

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 employees 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 people in support staff positions in the departments or as an instructor. No one speaks much about either their wages or their working conditions and often you 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 and safety 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 then?

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 demands of the college management is if they meet the budget guidelines and exceed them through cheap labour. This reflects itself in the following ways:

- The holidays and vacation times when campuses are closed are not paid.
- There is arbitrary implementation of breaks after a reasonable time of working.
- 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 challenge unjust 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 Bargaining Act 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 workers have?

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 discussing 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 bargain with 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 conditions of 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 that I 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 workers do?

Worker: Today the part-time and sessional 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, personal 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 population.

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 these past 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 workers.

This sort of thinking sets out to disarm the workers and take the 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 our fight. We must collectively discuss these issues and see them as they are.

We are not just signing cards but building a union, a modern union 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 full-timers against 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.

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OPSEU Press Releases

It's Time! OPSEU Launches Union Drive for Part-time and Sessional College Workers
www.collegeworkers.org, 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 offers."

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 now."

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 to them.

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 tonight.

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 workers.

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 historic wrong."

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