It’s been nearly four years since contract faculty at Ontario’s 24 public colleges voted on whether to join Ontario’s biggest and strongest public sector labour union: OPSEU/SEFPO.
The College Employer Council (CEC) has tried every trick in the book to prevent the counting of the ballots – and has spent uncounted millions of taxpayer dollars to do it. This is money that would have been better spent in the classroom. The employer did the same thing in 2016, when 20,000 part-time college support staff voted on whether to join OPSEU/SEFPO – a vote that followed a 14-year-long campaign. It took almost two years before the all the CEC’s challenges were dismissed by the Labour Board. When the ballots were counted, a whopping 84 per cent were in favour of joining the union. It remains the largest organizing drive the Canadian labour movement has ever seen.
In the case of part-time and sessional faculty, the CEC “flooded the list.” Here’s what that means: Under Ontario labour law, the employer must provide the union with a list of all employees. Not only was the CEC’s list rife with errors, but it also left out thousands of employees we know should be there. It has forced us to examine every name to see which ones belonged there, which didn’t, and what names needed to be added. It’s a time-consuming process that involves thousands of names. It is all the more difficult because many colleges have been slow to provide evidence to back up their claims.
Why is the employer doing this? We can only think it’s a way of saving money for a few more years on the backs of vulnerable faculty. In the end, we are confident the ballots will be counted – and we’re extremely confident the vote will be in favour of joining OPSEU/SEFPO.
So where are we today? The union has finally received the base documentation required from all 24 colleges, with Durham and Seneca being the last two. With that information, the union has assembled compelling challenges to take to the Ontario Labour Relations board (OLRB). This includes over 1,400 names and tens of thousands of pieces of documentation that had to be painstakingly reviewed one by one.
If the OLRB accepts these challenges, they’ll be included in the final list the board will use to determine whether the ballot boxes can be opened – and your voices heard.
Until then, we continue to discuss items from the colleges’ 2019 disclosure. Again, it’s a slow, painful process, but we’ll leave no room for the employer to bring further objections. The CEC has denied justice to our part-time and sessional faculty far too long. It’s time for justice to prevail – and OPSEU/SEFPO will ensure it does.