OPSEU launches campaign to organize part-time college support workers | National Union of Public and General Employees

OPSEU launches campaign to organize part-time college support workers

“My message to part-time support workers at our community colleges is simple: look carefully at what we offer — and Sign Up! This time, workers will carry the day. We’re going to win.” — Warren (Smokey) Thomas

Toronto (31 Aug. 2015) — On September 1, 2015, Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU, will officially launch the campaign to unionize part‑time support staff employed by the province’s 24 colleges of applied arts and technology. 

Aim is to organize thousands of part-time staff

Thomas said he was eager to kick off the organizing drive, which aims to bring thousands of part‑time workers under the umbrella of OPSEU. “This is one of those moments when I feel particularly proud to be part of an organization that gives a strong, united voice to workers who have no say in their workplaces. It’s time for these hard-working women and men to be heard.”

Workers have been treated as if they are disposable

Unlike full-time staff, part-time college support staff are not entitled to paid sick days, paid vacation days or health benefits. They have no job security, nor do they have any control over how many hours they work or when they will work them. They are also generally paid less than full-time staff doing the same work.

“The part-time staff are treated like disposable workers,” said Thomas. “Once again, they have turned to us for help, because they have no protections, no benefits, no job security. It’s appalling that workers in the post-secondary education sector are subjected to such shoddy treatment.”

Liberals spent millions to obstruct own legislation

Ontario’s college system was founded in 1965. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a provincial statute that outlawed unionizing part-time college workers.  In 2008, OPSEU’s first attempt to organize the workers was met with vigorous legal obstruction by the government.

“The Liberals enacted Bill 90, which allowed part-time college workers to organize,” observed Thomas. “Then they turned around and spent millions of taxpayer dollars in legal fees to obstruct their own legislation. They prevented the ballot boxes from even being opened, thereby gagging the voices of thousands of workers. That’s the Liberal take on the democratic process.

“My message to part-time support workers at our community colleges is simple: look carefully at what we offer — and Sign Up! This time, workers will carry the day. We’re going to win.”

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