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Part-time faculty vote to join union

Ivana Pelisek | Interrobang | News | February 2nd, 2009

It has been a battle between full-time and sessional faculty at all 24 Ontario colleges for a number of years.

Part-time and sessional workers, who are not currently represented by a union, are looking for the same rights as full-time college faculty, who are represented by Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).

Currently part-time and sessional workers are considered those who work six hours or less any given week at a post-secondary institution.

On January 26, Fanshawe College had ballot boxes out to encourage part-time and sessional workers to cast a first union certification vote for those at Ontario Colleges who support a union.

Roger Couvrette, part-time faculty at Algonquin College in Ottawa and first elected President of the organization of part-time and sessional employees (OPSECAAT) mentioned the faculty seeking to be unionized have been running this campaign for the past three years and remain optimistic at what is to come.

“We are really excited about bargaining. But mainly we are seeking a better work environment and a greater quality of education for students,” said Couvrette. “I feel disappointed and terribly disrespected by the institution.”

“There should not be discrimination against part-time support staff at colleges,” said Emily Marcoccia, Manager of Marketing and Communications at Fanshawe College. “We do not think part-time employees have been disrespected.”

According to Marcoccia, part-time positions have always been attractive on a large scale to persons only wanting to work those hours. In other words, a large number of people want to work part-time at Ontario Colleges and find the current working conditions and salaries to be of a competitive nature.

Joining a union remains a personal choice for faculty working part-time.

“Ontario Colleges support their part-time employees' right to associate as they see fit. It is every employee's right to decide whether they want to be represented by a union or not,” Marcoccia said. “We also believe that the employees should decide which group (union) should represent them and we do not favour any one group (union) over another. We have tried to remain neutral about which group they might join, but at the same time, we believe they have a right to associate.”

According to Couvrette, the main issues that need resolving is the grievance procedure, job security and wages.

“We just want a commitment from the college,” Couvrette added.

Couvrette said he loves to teach and be in front of his classroom, but it's when he walks out, he feels bad because part-time faculty are not paid for their time outside of the classroom's regular hours.

Once accepted into a union, part-time and sessional faculty at any one of Ontario's 24 colleges will have bargaining rights within the college system.

Couvrette believes it is a huge problem part-time faculty is not unionized, and believes there is still a lot that needs to be addressed if his organization wants to start seeing results.
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