OPSEU allays fear of reprisals against college part-timers

Major drive underway to organize 17,000 workers at 24 Ontario colleges


Toronto (7 March 2007) - The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) is reassuring part-time college workers across the province that they have no reason to feel intimidated by signing up for union membership.

OPSEU recently launched one of the largest labour recruitment drives in recent Canadian history in a bid to organize 17,000 part-time faculty and support staff at 24 community colleges across Ontario.

Existing Ontario law excludes college part-timers from collective bargaining. Some job protections under the Employment Standards Act such as statutory holiday pay, and vacation pay also don’t apply to college part-time employees.

The Organization of Part-time and Sessional Employees of the Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology (OPSECAAT) was formed last November, shortly after the International Labour Organization (ILO) ruled that part-timers should have the same right to unionize and bargain collectively ‘as any other workers.’

Since then, OPSEU says "a few part-time workers" have expressed fear they may leave themselves "open to reprisals" if they actually sign union cards.

"But there is no need for fear," the union says in a statement by OPSEU president Leah Cassemlan and Roger Couvrette, president of OPSECAAT.

"The part-time organizing campaign has the full support of OPSEU, and its 120,000 members, including 15,000 unionized full-time staff in the colleges, and is supported
by the Canada-wide network of labour activists. There is strength in numbers," the statement says.

"We also have assurances from the employer. The College Compensation and Appointments Council.... Don Sinclair, Executive Director of the Council, says (in a Feb. 24 letter): 'Of course all persons have the freedom to associate or participate in an association if they choose to do so.'

"Sinclair also said that there is no history of reprisals in the colleges when other employee groups have associated. Some colleges are even more explicit. At La Cité collégiale in Ottawa, the director of human resources wrote to all administrators, informing them of the OPSECAAT drive. Patrick La Ferté, Human Resources Director reminded his management team Jan. 19 that: 'freedom of association is a recognized right and we should avoid any suggestion or comment that could be perceived as intimidation by these employees or any other employee of the college.'" NUPGE

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