form association to improve working conditions
Workers representing 16,000 part-time
faculty and support staff have taken the
first step towards forming a union to bargain for better working
conditions in the colleges.
Representatives from Ontario’s 24 colleges met
Nov. 17-19 to form the Organization of
Part-time and Sessional Employees of Colleges of Applied Arts
and Technology (OPSECAAT).
Members elected a
10-person executive (five from faculty, five from support).
a part-time teacher at Algonquin College in Ottawa, was elected
the organization’s first president. He slammed the Ontario
government for allowing “third-world working conditions to
persist in Ontario colleges” as a result of legislation banning
these workers from joining a union.
part-time college workers in Ontario’s community colleges are a
source of cheap labour. We have no job security. Our working
conditions are abysmal. We have no benefits,” he said.
begin a membership drive early in 2007, and plans a political
campaign to change the current law.
asks Ontario government
to change law
International Labour Organization (ILO) ruled in November
against the Ontario government for excluding part-time Ontario
college employees from union activity.
The ILO ruled in
response to a request from the National Union of Public and
General Employees (NUPGE), OPSEU’s national
affiliate. NUPGE called on the ILO to investigate Ontario’s
Colleges Collective Bargaining Act (CCBA), which denies most
part-time staff employed by the 24 Ontario colleges the right to
join a union and engage in collective bargaining.
Leah Casselman called on Premier Dalton McGuinty to immediately
right this historic wrong. “The Ontario government’s position is
indefensible, they know it and it’s time for the government to
finally do the right thing.”
McGuinty must act rapidly
“I strongly urge
McGuinty to heed the ILO, and immediately introduce amendments
to the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act to ensure part-time
college employees may join a union like all other workers.”
The ILO decision
read, in part: “...the Committee fails to see any reason why the
principles on the basic rights of association and collective
bargaining afforded to all workers should not also apply to
It said that
“...all workers, without distinction whatsoever, whether they
are employed on a permanent basis, for a fixed-term or as
contract employees, should have the right to establish and join
organizations of their own choosing,” and requested that “the
Government rapidly take legislative measures, in consultation
with the social partners, to ensure that academic and part-time
support staff in applied arts and technology fully enjoy the
rights to organize and bargain collectively, as any other
to the Times
member dissects Ministry rationale
of Training, Colleges and Universities was invited to
present its side to the International Labour Organization. A
member comments on the three-page letter from an Assistant
Deputy Minister at MCTU.
read such a poorly thought out and flawed argument as the
one the government and MTCU tried to present. (...) It
obviously never occurred to them to compare part-time
college workers to groups like part-time public school, high
school and university employees?
colleges need to hire part timers because “College
programmes and activities are required to be responsive to
the immediate and frequently changing needs of employers and
the workforce.” Somehow, according to
the MTCU, that also means they don’t want to be or they
shouldn’t be part of the bargaining unit! Those are two
separate issues and one really has no connection to the
They top it
off with a statement like: “The ability of colleges to offer
the current number and range of the courses would be
jeopardized without access to a pool of individuals willing
to provide such part-time services to colleges.” Fair
enough... try providing them with better wages, benefits and
working conditions and you might even attract more and
better qualified part timers!
statement falls under the category “Motherhood and Apple
Pie”: “MTCU recognizes the connection between the current
college bargaining unit definitions and the ability of the
colleges to attract and retain the part-time academic and
support staff who ensure that the colleges can fully meet
their mandate. The MTCU believes that it must give priority
to the needs of the province and to take all reasonable
steps to provide the support that will facilitate the
continuance of a viable, high-quality college system that
can meet its complex mandate.”
How dare we
jeopardize such a “high-quality college system” by asking
for basic rights for part-time college employees?
Local 658, Canadore College
Thirteen years, and still part-time at
Sir Sandford Fleming College
As I reach my
thirteenth year of employment at Fleming College, I am
compelled to speak out about (...) the unfair treatment of
Fleming’s part-time workers.
these employees go to work, often performing the same duties
as their full-time peers, usually for considerably less pay.
(...) part-time workers have no support system within the
college, nor do they have any protection should they choose
to voice their concerns about this or any other issue.
Fortunately, Betty Cree and the local union have spoken out
on behalf of part-time workers. Thanks to Betty, some
changes for part-time workers have already been realized.
I am one of
those part-time workers (…)I always
give more than my job requires of me—not because I have to
but because I want to. The students with whom I work are
always my priority, and I genuinely care about their
academic success. Regardless of my
commitment to my job or to my students, I am constantly
reminded of my part-time status, especially in relation to
my full-time co-workers. Only recently, and again thanks to
the local union shaming the department into it, was I, along
with my part-time co-workers, included in any department
gatherings.... Prior to these very
recent events, however, I was consciously excluded from all
other retreats, meetings, and workshops, including the
annual department Christmas party.
2003, when I was presented with my ten-year pin, I never
dreamed that only three years later I would have less than
what I started with. After thirteen years at Fleming College,
I will now be tossed aside. As a result of a job
reclassification, one that I must admit is an odd
combination—mathematics and communications—I was instantly
rendered unqualified for and, therefore, ineligible to apply
for my own job. The only consolation I was offered were the
overflow hours the new full-time employee will be unable to
accommodate. I deserve to be treated with the same respect
and dignity with which my full-time co-workers are treated.
part-time workers are barred by law from receiving legal
representation, perhaps a little consistency throughout the
college could be instituted under your direction so that
your part-time workers feel respected in each department and
are treated equally across the college. Consider how you
would feel if you were in our position.
In the House
Hansard - 23 Nov.
Mr. Rosario Marchese (Trinity-Spadina):
the government’s ban on unionization ... faculty and support
staff from Ontario’s 24 colleges have recently formed an
organization of part-time and sessional employees of colleges of
applied arts and technology.
International Labour Organization ruled that such workers be
given the legal right to bargain collectively and urged the
McGuinty Liberals to let this happen.
The report stated
unambiguously that “there’s no reason that the basic rights of
association and collective bargaining shouldn’t also apply to
I have addressed
this abysmal situation in my private member’s Bill 13, An Act to
amend the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act with respect to
part-time staff…. Simply because someone works in a profession
on a part-time basis is no justification to deny them the same
rights that colleagues have.
urging this government to pass my private member’s bill. After
all, the whole world is watching us.”
Congratulations to Ontario's Part-Time College Workers!
David Starbuck, Chair, OPSEU Sudbury Area Council
Ontario's 16,000 part-time and sessional community college
employees have made two achievements in their struggle for the
recognition of the rights of freedom of association and
In a Nov. 15 report, the Committee on Freedom of Association of
the International Labour Organization “fails to see any reason
why the basic rights of association and collective bargaining
afforded to all workers should not also apply to part-time
employees. The committee therefore requests the government
rapidly take legislative measures, in consultation with the
social partners, to ensure that academic and support part-time
staff in colleges of applied arts and technology fully enjoy the
rights to organize and to bargain collectively, as any other
The ILO decision has stripped away the fig leaf proffered by the
Ontario government and college management that part-time and
sessional college employees have no collective bargaining rights
because it is ‘the law.’ Legislation which removes human rights
is not ‘the law’ but the abrogation of the rule of law and
Canada's international commitments. The provisions of the (law)
which have been used to prevent the organization of part-time
college employees deserve nothing but contempt.
In forming OPSECAAT, the part-time and sessional college
employees have rejected the government's position that they can
do nothing about their situation.(…) While the laws make no
provision for part-time and sessional employees to negotiate a
collective agreement, they do not, and cannot, prevent them from
exercising their right of freedom of association to collectively
determine how to defend their common interests and to organize
to win acceptable wages and working conditions.
“We need(ed) to form an association to work with each other
collectively and then deal with college management from a
position of strength,” said OPSECAAT president Roger Couvrette.
“Creating an association is a key first step towards the
long-term goal of union representation,” he said. “Of course the
law will have to change for that to occur, but once you have an
association that is up and running, perform a lot of the
functions that a union would perform. The history of the labour
movement is such that you didn't ask permission to form a
union,” Couvrette says.
Ontario's part-time community college workers deserve hearty
congratulations for these two achievements and full support in
their campaign to have their rights of freedom of association
and collective bargaining recognized by the Ontario government.
Speech: To right a wrong
By Roger Couvrette, President,
staff and teachers from 24 Ontario community colleges met to
form the Organization of Part-time and Sessional Employees of
the Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology (OPSECAAT). It was a
crucial, historical step in righting a wrong that has endured
for 30 years in Ontario. We vowed to fight as an organization
until the very day that the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act
is amended to give us our fundamental right as workers to form
or join a union.
There is sense of
occasion when an historical wrong is righted. What it must have
felt like when women won the right to vote in Manitoba,
Saskatchewan and Alberta in 1916! When they won that right in
1925 in Newfoundland! And when women won that right in 1940 in
Quebec! What an important day it was on July 20, 2005 when for
the first time in the history of the dominion same-sex marriage
was legalized by virtue of an Act passed in the Parliament of
To right a wrong.
And you know, it’s not only us part-time college workers who say
it is wrong to deny us the right to bargain collectively.
Earlier this very month, the International Labour Organization (ILO),
rebuked – and that is not too strong a word – rebuked – not the
government of Indonesia for denying workers’ rights and not the
government of China for denying workers’ rights – but the
government of the Province of Ontario in the great and
democratic country of Canada for denying workers what is
recognized internationally as a fundamental right of a worker:
the right to join or form a union.
The ILO ruled
that the government of Ontario should, “rapidly …take
legislative measures…to ensure that academic and part-time
support staff in colleges of applied arts and technology in
Ontario fully enjoy the rights to organize and bargain
collectively, as any other workers.”
“As any other
workers.” Indeed. To right a wrong. I want to talk now about
some of the things we have to do to right this wrong.
Management in the
community colleges will continue to use us as a source of cheap
labour, they will continue to deny us anything remotely similar
to job security, we will continue to be deprived of any form of
grievance process that would force management to address our
legitimate concerns, and we will continue to work without any
benefits and sometimes in unacceptable working conditions, and
they will continue to have us work in a work environment that is
arbitrary and unfair, often incomprehensible, and one which more
often than not makes a mockery of the notion of quality
education until we stop them.
As I conclude I
want to tell you two things about myself.
First, I was
taken to the top of the mountain as a young man by Tommy Douglas
and there I saw his vision of a New Jerusalem: a world of women
and men who were as in a family, sisters and brothers who cared
about and for (in the largest sense of that word) each other.
Second, my Dad was a member of the Mine Mill and Smelter Workers
Union in Sudbury. I know the vision of trade unionists’ is not
unlike that of Tommy Douglas. Tommy believed there was a
parliamentary road to the New Jerusalem. The trade unionists I
knew as I grew up believed that you had to live your vision, you
had to fashion a way of life that reflected and incorporated
your beliefs, and especially your belief in the solidarity of
all women and men.
trade unionists that I grew up with knew that you had to wake up
every morning ready to fight for what you believe in.
Our fight is well begun. But it is not
over. Its success will be the fruit of your commitment, your
solidarity, your dedication, your time, and your work. But
together, we will stop them from doing to us what they have been
doing to us. Together, we shall right this wrong.—Durham
College, Nov. 27,
Roger Couvrette has been a part-time English teacher at
Algonquin since 2003. He was Executive Director of the New
Brunswick SPCA for two years and served as Provincial Secretary
of the New Brunswick New Democratic Party for eight years in the
1990s. In the eighties, he worked for the NDP federal caucus in
research and communications. Roger, who has a daughter, Kyla, at
Mount Allison University, spent several years teaching part-time
at McGill University, where he received a Master’s degree in
Candy Lindsay, Vice-President
Candy Lindsay is graduate of Fleming
College’s Educational Assistant program. She owned and operated
the “Life Long Education Center” from September 1993 until
1998. She has worked at Fleming College as a part time support
staff since 1998, in learning support services and educational
support. She’s excited to work with the new association and help
co- workers finally obtain real fairness in their working
lives. Married 24 years, Candy has four grown children, and one
Veronica Pinnock works at Seneca College as Test
She came to Canada more than 32 years ago from Jamaica with her
two sons. She studied Fashion Design at George Brown College and
The School of Make-up-Arts and later completed an Entrepreneur
Course at Centennial College. She has operated a small
home-based business, and is board member with The Black Action
Defence Committee. She has a strong belief in equal opportunity
and fairness in the workplace.
Job Opportunities for
the “I Believe in Fairness” campaign
OPSECAAT, the new
association representing part-time college workers, is launching
a membership drive across the province during the months of
January to March, 2007. We are looking for energetic activists
who are interested in working on a half-time
or full time basis, along with members of the campaign committee
at their college.
eligible to apply?
are open to part-time or sessional faculty members (including
part-time librarians and counselors) and part-time support staff.
campaign staff be paid?
The rate of pay
for these positions is $930 per week plus 14% in lieu of
benefits in accordance with the collective agreement between
OPSEU and OPSSU (prorated for part-time hours).
Who are we
· You have
experience in union organizing and mobilizing, or in community,
electoral or social justice campaigns
· You have
the ability to inspire and motivate people
· You are a
self-starter, comfortable calling new people and building new
· You have
Please mail, fax
or e-mail a covering letter and a resume to:
100 Lesmill Road
Toronto, ON M3B 3P8
Fax: 416 443-1762
applications is Monday, December 18,
information, call Barb at 416 443-8888/1 800 268-7376 x 8203
Candy Lindsay, Roger Couvrette and Veronica Pinnock (front),
celebrate the creation of OPSECAAT with OPSEU Region 5
Vice-President Nancy Pridham.
board! Call the part-time campaign hotline 416 448-7433
or 1 866 811-7274
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