OPSEU fights for student, worker rights

For the second time, OPSEU is working on unionizing part time staff at Ontario’s Colleges to provide rights to these workers. For the second time, Ontario’s colleges are challenging the results.

OPSEU, the Ontario Public Services Employees Union, represents approximately 130,000 workers across Ontario who work in a variety of public sectors, such as municipalities, hospitals, universities and colleges.

In Ontario, in order for a workplace to hold a vote on unionization, 40% of employees must sign a membership card with the union in question. In the case of OPSEU, 35% of employees must sign. Following this, a vote is conducted through secret ballot by
the Ontario Labour Relations Board. The entire process is confidential.

OPSEU started the “historic” drive in Fall 2015 and completed signing cards in May 2016. They face legal challenges by Ontario’s College administration.

There are 24 colleges in Ontario, each with its own unique culture and climate. There are thousands of workers who are part time, spread out across Ontario, from Northern to in Windsor at St. Clair College and everywhere in between.
College Administrators objected to the vote being held in June.

Approximately 45% of part time workers at the 24 Colleges in Ontario are students. Part time workers often face poor conditions at the work place, and colleges appear to be no different.

According to Marilou Martin, Chairperson of the College of Applied Arts & Technologies Divisional Executive of OPSEU, “The majority of [Part Time Workers] work for minimum wage, no benefits, no vacation, no sick leave…it’s people trying to cobble two-three jobs together to survive. They recognize we need to create abetter society.”

Mrs. Martin also suggested that it is necessary for youth to get involved in unions and worker’s rights.

“We as a society are training youth to get involved in the workforce, but not showing them there is a future in their workplaces.”
The world continues to put more pressures on youth, and without proper rights and working conditions, it is clear youth will continue to face more and more barriers.

“How do you ever have a future, raise a family, buy a home when you have to work three jobs with low wages every day?”

The result of the College’s challenge to OPSEU’s unionization drive has yet to be seen.

For more details on unionization or how to unionize your workplace, please visit:

https://cupe.ca/ontario-5- steps-local-certification

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