Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)

Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)

March 10, 2008 10:11 ET

OPSEU Campus Organizing Drive Swings Into Niagara March 10

NIAGARA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 10, 2008) - The largest union organizing drive in the history of Ontario will swing into Niagara March 10 as the Ontario Public Service Employees Union steps up its drive to organize more than 12,500 part-time and sessional college employees, including hundreds of faculty and support staff at Niagara College.

OPSEU campaigners Roger Couvrette and Candy Lindsay will visit Niagara for a series of union events as part of their province-wide tour on OPSEU's blue "It's Time!" union organizing bus.

On March 7, OPSEU asked the colleges for "voluntary recognition" of the union as its bargaining agent, and asked the colleges to start the process of bargaining for these workers.

"It is clear that the continued statutory exclusion of these employees from collective bargaining is unconstitutional," OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas wrote. "It is also clear that the part-time and sessional college employees have expressed a strong desire to be represented by OPSEU."

"Since the launch of our campaign last October we have made significant progress and are meeting each and every one of our goals in signing up part-time and sessional employees at 24 Ontario community colleges," said Couvrette. "We will be doing everything necessary to be recognized as the bargaining agent for these workers as soon as possible."

The largest union drive in Ontario history became possible in June 2007 when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that collective bargaining is a protected right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In August 2007, the McGuinty government announced its intention to recognize bargaining rights for those workers.

Ontario's complex Colleges Collective Bargaining Act had excluded part-time and sessional workers from union membership. The Supreme Court ruling nullified that exclusion, OPSEU says.

Couvrette, president of the provincial organization of part-timers and sessionals, says unionization will have a "positive and noticeable" effect on the quality of education all colleges deliver.

"Dramatically substandard wages and working conditions for part-timers and sessionals are causing a crisis of retention and recruitment for the colleges," Couvrette said. "Part-time faculty and support staff come in to the college, scramble to get up to speed, get discouraged by the poor treatment, and leave. When good employees walk out the door, it's the students who suffer."

Couvrette and Lindsay's tour of Niagara College will begin in Niagara on the Lake in the morning and finish up an afternoon event in Welland.

Speedy recognition of bargaining rights for college part-timers and sessionals should not be a problem, Couvrette said, as all parties with an interest in the college system have voiced their support for it - the workers, the McGuinty government, the colleges themselves, and (most recently) the government's advisor on the issue, Kevin Whitaker.

As we sign up more and more workers, part-time and sessional employees at Ontario's colleges are showing their strong desire for our union to represent them," said Couvrette. "In our view, that's the only thing that matters. Collective bargaining should begin right away."


Contact Information

    Roger Couvrette
    (416) 553-0769 (cell)
    David Cox
    (416) 443-8888 ext.8314 or (416) 788-9197 (cell)