Divisional Court victory for part-time college support workers

Toronto – In a rebuke of the College Employer Council (CEC)’s delay tactics, the Divisional Court today dismissed the CEC’s application to overturn the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB)’s decision to hold a vote for part-time college workers in June.

The CEC had asked the Court to set aside the ballots cast in June and order a new vote, an application that the Court denied.

“We’re glad to see the Court support the right of the OLRB to make that decision,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. “It’s just a shame that these workers have had to wait six months already. And despite today’s ruling, these workers still face further delays, as the employer continues to throw up roadblocks in the way of getting their votes counted.

“For today, however, we’re just glad to see the Court recognize the right of the folks at the OLRB to do their job.”

The application by the CEC last summer for a judicial review is just one of several attempts by the employer to delay or derail the OLRB process.

Marilou Martin, chair of the union’s college support workers division, celebrated the decision as one step closer to representation for part-time workers at Ontario’s public colleges.

“These workers aren’t asking for a lot,” said Martin. “They just want decent working conditions, the right to take a day off when they’re sick, to get paid equally for doing equal work, and to be allowed to bargain together to get a fair deal from their employer.

“This isn’t the end of the struggle, but it’s one step closer to getting these workers what they deserve.”

Marilou Martin, chair of OPSEU's college support workers division, with the lawyers following the Divisional Court decision.

Marilou Martin, chair of OPSEU’s college support workers division, with the lawyers following the Divisional Court decision.

Part Timers Vote – Now What?

COLLEGE WORKER VOTE: QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

1) I voted – what happens next?

Unlike what happens in an election, there are a couple of steps that need to happen after the vote before the ballots can be counted. The Ontario Labour Relations Board, who supervised the vote, needs to check to make sure there are no duplicate ballots across the colleges, and that all of the voters who cast ballots are on the voters list.  Unfortunately, the employer is dragging this process out with legal challenges to the certification process, and the votes cannot be counted until these challenges have been resolved. OPSEU will continue to fight to ensure that this process happens as quickly as possible.

2) When will the ballots be counted?

We will be meeting with the employer and the Labour Board in the weeks to come to work on resolving the issues described above. Once this process is complete, the ballot boxes should be opened and the votes counted.   We don’t know how long the employers’ delays will take, but we will keep you informed as we know more.

3) How will we find out the results of the vote?

As soon as the ballots are counted, we will be in touch with workers to share the result.

4) I heard that there is a Judicial Review – what does that mean?

By asking for a Judicial Review, the Colleges Council (your employer) has challenged the Ontario Labour Relations Board’s decision to hold the vote at all. They are asking for the vote to be dismissed, and for the votes that you cast to be destroyed, uncounted.
The College Council is asking the court to rule that the Labour Board was wrong to order a vote in June. The Labour Board ruled that part-time workers who had organized, signed cards, and worked to join a union to improve their rights should be allowed to vote.

OPSEU feels strongly that the Labour Board made the right decision. Even more importantly, OPSEU believes that as an unbiased party, the Labour Board’s decisions should be respected. They ruled that a vote should go ahead, and thousands of college workers showed up to vote. We believe that the votes of these workers, many of whom lined up for hours to vote, should be heard.

5) The employer is arguing that the vote should have happened in October – why was the vote held in June?

Part-time workers, including students, have worked hard over the past year to reach this point. They’ve talked to their coworkers about the value of belonging to a union, and how it will help them attain basic rights such as access to sick days, or equal pay for equal work. The employer was hoping to delay the vote until October, when a new group of students and other part-time workers will have just started. The employer hoped that they wouldn’t understand the importance of voting yes to union representation.

The Labour Board ruled the vote should happen now. With this decision, the part time workers and students who worked so hard this year got a chance to vote. Now the employer is trying to have the court dismiss the vote, and throw out the votes that have already been cast. OPSEU will continue to fight to have your votes counted.

6) Is it true students weren’t able to vote?

Despite what the employer is claiming, hundreds of students voted across the province. Some colleges had line-ups to vote. People waited as long as an hour and a half to cast their ballot.

The employer had tried to leave students who had worked earlier in the year off the list of voters. OPSEU ensured that students who worked at any point in the academic year were able to vote by adding their names to the voters’ list. We wanted all part-time workers to have the opportunity to vote.

7) I want my vote to count – what can I do to help?

Write to Deb Matthews, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, at dmatthews.mpp@liberal.ola.org to let her know that you want your vote counted. Ask her to tell the college presidents to stop delaying the count of the ballots.