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OPSEU and college at odds over union cards

Ivana Pelisek | Interrobang | News | June 8th, 2009

Ontario's civil service workers have filed an official complaint with Ontario's labour board charging Fanshawe College has denied the union an opportunity formally organize part-time support staff presently working at the college.

According to Marg Rae, president of Local 109, which represents full-time support staff on campus, Fanshawe College is attempting to stop the organizing efforts of OPSEU in order to have part-time support workers join the already existing union.

OPSEU, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, has been trying to organize the 12,500 part-time teachers and support staff at Ontario's 24 community colleges. Part-time staff voted back in January about whether or not they wanted to become part of the union, said Rae.

Since that attempt, the votes have been sealed.

OPSEU's efforts will now be to engage 35 per cent of part-time support staff to sign cards indicating they are indeed interested in joining the union.

One of Fanshawe's vice presidents stated that the college has always supported part-time employees' right to associate as they see fit.

“The college doesn't want to create an environment where it's perceived to be supporting one organization over another,” said Bernice Hull, VP of Planning and Administration at Fanshawe.

Support staff at Fanshawe College includes anyone who is not a teacher or manager.

On May 21, support staff had permission from the Fanshawe Student Union to set up a table, which they primarily used to distribute cards for signing.

According to Rae, an individual from the college came shortly after the table was set up and indicated they shut it down immediately.

“I think this is ridiculous that we are treated differently than any other vendor in the college,” indicated Rae. Adding, “we were not disturbing anyone.”

This ordeal began a complaint to the labor board.

Hull said the complaint is now a legal matter, and she is unable to divulge any details about the complaint at this present time. Adding the complaint is “under review”.

Rae stated the college purposely stepped in to prevent them from having the appropriate cards signed.

According to the London Free Press June 2nd issue, a Fanshawe College vice president said Ontario colleges have always supported part-time employees' right to associate as they see fit.

Rae insisted administration at the college has stepped over their boundaries.

During the length of the interview, Rae made it evident support staff had no intention of interrupting daily procedures at the college and only want what is fair for all part-time employees at the college.

Support staff at the college seeks wage increases, job security and wish to feel like an important asset to all daily operations at the college, said Rae.

Support staff will continue their efforts by getting 35 per cent of cards signed in all of Ontario's 24 colleges.

Legislation was made for all to partake in organizing if they chose to do so, mentioned Rae, adding Fanshawe College is one of the worst colleges in Ontario for labour relations.
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