"History has been made." — Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President
Toronto (25 Feb. 2019) — Hailing it as a victory for working people everywhere (particularly those stuck in precarious jobs), Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE), has announced that 20,000 part-time support workers at Ontario’s colleges have voted to ratify their first-ever collective agreement.
Part-time support workers will see major improvements to working conditions
“History has been made,” said Thomas. “OPSEU/NUPGE and this large group of workers fought for years for the legislated right to join a union. We won that fight as now these workers have an excellent first contract to show for it."
“It’s a huge victory. And not just for them," continued Thomas. "It’s also a victory for their families, their communities, the students they serve, and working people everywhere."
The contract contains a number of significant improvements, including a 3 per cent wage increase over 2 years and shift-premium increases, a formal grievance process, and vastly improved shift-change notice.
“This contract will immediately make our working lives better,” said Ted Claeys, Bargaining Committee Chair, who works at Lambton College in Sarnia. “With job security and the ability to speak up, we can provide much better services to our students.”
Victory for workers in precarious jobs
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer, says the ratification is an inspiration for all Ontarians, particularly those stuck in precarious work.
“OPSEU/NUPGE and these workers have proven that nothing is impossible,” said Almeida. “We had to fight for years to change the law that prevented these workers from joining a union. Then we had to fight against an employer who used every dirty trick in the book to stop them from joining OPSEU/NUPGE."
“But we won those fights because when workers organize, they are a force for fairness that can’t be stopped," Almeida said.
Part-time and sessional faculty waiting for recognition as OPSEU/NUPGE members
Now that the college’s part-time support workers have a contract, Thomas says it’s time for the College Employers Council to voluntarily recognize OPSEU/NUPGE as the union for part-time and sessional faculty.
“It’s been more than a year since part-time and sessional faculty voted on joining OPSEU/NUPGE, but the employer continues to stall and block those votes from being counted,” said Thomas. “It’s time for the employer to stop with the dirty tricks and start respecting their employees’ constitutional rights.”
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