OPSEU President launches union drive for part-time workers at Ontario colleges

Part‑timers have really got the short end of the stick. It’s high time they got a fair shake.” — Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President

Toronto (03 Sept. 2015) — On the Waterfront Campus of George Brown College, Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) launched the union’s campaign to organize thousands of part-time support staff working in the province’s 24 colleges.

Part-time workers need stability, improved benefits and protection

“We’re talking about community colleges, and their part-time workers are suffering,” said Thomas. “By joining OPSEU/NUPGE, they can plan their lives and go to work with some security, knowing that if they’re treated unfairly, they have a union that can fight for them. Part‑timers have really got the short end of the stick. It’s high time they got a fair shake.”

Support Staff DIVEX Chair Marilou Martin spoke of the plight of part-time staff. “The media have talked a lot recently about the appalling situation of Ontarians doing precarious work. College part‑time workers have no paid sick time, no paid vacation time, no drug benefits, no job security. It’s a system that takes blatant advantage of part-time workers.”

Michelle Hahn, a former part-time worker who is now full-time, agrees. “As a part‑timer, I had no protection, rights or voice. It made me feel that I didn’t matter, that I was easily replaceable and, ultimately, that I wasn’t important at my workplace.”

Previous OPSEU/NUPGE organizing drive blocked by Liberal government

The Ontario government banned part-time college workers from organizing until the Supreme Court ruled the ban illegal in 2007. The McGuinty Liberals passed Bill 90, which permitted part-time college workers to unionize and allowed OPSEU/NUPGE to launch a first campaign. However, the Liberals spent millions of taxpayer dollars on private lawyers to stop the votes from even being counted.

“We signed over 10,000 union cards,” recalls Thomas, “but the government threw every legal means they had at us, and the votes never got counted. Since then, literally thousands of part-time workers have asked OPSEU/NUPGE to launch another campaign. This time, the Liberals’ costly legal tricks won’t stop these vulnerable workers from obtaining justice.”

Students and college system will benefit from workers organizing

OPSEU’s President also noted that organizing part-time workers will be beneficial, not only for part‑time workers but, ultimately, for students and Ontario’s college system.

“It’s in the interest of quality education to have a stable workforce, and we’re determined to bring some stability to part-time college workers’ lives,” said Thomas. “College part-time support workers deserve justice — and we will be successful.”

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 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

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