“We congratulate our OPSEU/NUPGE organizers for this historic organizing victory. We know that one of the best ways to stop the scourge of income inequality, and the growth of unfair low-waged jobs, is to increase and improve the rights and power of precarious workers to organize and bargain collectively.” — Larry Brown, NUPGE President
Toronto (11 Jan. 2018) — The largest union-organizing drive in Canadian history has resulted in roughly 20,000 college part-time support staff from all 24 Ontario community colleges voting to join the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE).
A 14-year struggle, a historic vote, and 84% in favour
A historic vote count at the Ontario Labour Relations Board that capped the union’s 14-year struggle on behalf of precarious workers, who have little or no job security, confirmed that part-time support staff have voted overwhelmingly to join OPSEU/NUPGE. 84% of the ballots counted were cast in favour of joining OPSEU/NUPGE.
The supervised vote at all 24 Ontario community colleges was held in June 2016, but legal wrangling by the College Employer Council kept ballots from being counted until just this week.
‘Magnificent victory for part-time college support staff’
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU, called it “a magnificent victory for part-time college support staff and for all the people who worked hard for so many years to win union rights for them.”
“The union movement is back and stronger than ever,” said Thomas. “We fought off an onslaught of right-wing reforms, but at the end of the day workers understand clearly the union advantage when it comes to inequality, injustice and a fair and productive workplace.”
Larry Brown, President of NUPGE, added, “We congratulate our OPSEU/NUPGE organizers for this historic organizing victory. We know that one of the best ways to stop the scourge of growing income inequality, and to stop the growth of unfair low-waged jobs, is to increase and improve the rights and power of precarious workers to organize and bargain collectively.”
OPSEU has long represented full-time staff at the colleges, but it was illegal for part-time employees to organize. Only after a concerted campaign by OPSEU/NUPGE, beginning in 2004, did the provincial government amend the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act (CCBA) in 2008 to grant them the right to unionize.
‘It truly is a dream come true’
“It truly is a dream come true for OPSEU members,” said Janice Hagan, the Divisional Executive Chair for OPSEU/NUPGE. "We can’t wait to welcome these new members to our union.”
“This has been a long and costly struggle, but it was well worth it to improve the working conditions of thousands of people across Ontario,” said Thomas. “It’s a shame that the College Employer Council spent millions of taxpayer dollars on high-priced lawyers to try to prevent these workers from exercising their rights. The fact that we overcame their resistance only makes this victory all the sweeter.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE