'Basically, it’s a strategy to have the application (to unionize) dismissed without counting the vote.' - Connie Huziak
Toronto (7 April 2009) - Ontario's community colleges are apparently resorting to every union-busting trick available to prevent the counting of ballots in a union certification vote that took place two months ago.
“Basically, it’s a strategy to have the application (to unionize) dismissed without counting the vote,” says Connie Huziak of the organization of part-time and sessional college workers (OPSECAAT). “The colleges are saying that they will not agree to count the votes until they challenge the eligibility of every card-signer.”
In the largest union certification vote in the history of Ontario, part-time and sessional college faculty cast ballots from Jan. 19 through Feb. 5 on whether to join the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE).
However, the colleges are refusing to open the ballot boxes and count the results.
Under the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act, 35% of a bargaining unit must sign union cards in order for a certification vote to be counted. In December 2008, OPSEU presented the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) with thousands of signed cards – far in excess of 35% – and the OLRB ordered the vote. The colleges are disputing whether the union actually had the required percentage of cards.
OPSEU says the colleges are using a technical argument to prevent the OLRB from counting the ballots. They are trying to take advantage of the high turnover rate of part-time academics to argue that many of the card signers were not working at the time of OPSEU’s application to the OLRB last December. This would result in an undetermined number of signed cards not counting for the purpose of the 35% threshold.
In February, the OLRB ordered the colleges to provide the union with start dates, end dates, and employment status for all part-timers and sessionals. The colleges provided only some of the information. In a meeting March 31, the OLRB gave the colleges more time to provide the rest.
The OLRB has scheduled a number of meeting dates throughout the summer and into the fall. The first of several meetings on the issue has been set for June 12.
Card signing continues
The drive to win union representation for part-time support staff continues at colleges right across Ontario. OPSEU is urging all members who have not signed to card to visit www.collegeworkers.org or call 1-866-811-7274 for information. Cards may also be signed by contacting the OPSEU support staff at any local college. The direct OPSEU information number is 1-800-268-7376.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 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
Ontario colleges blocking historic union vote count