Teachers, Labour Unions Demand Ontario Government Open Ballots for Counting

Count Votes Now! Part-Time College Teachers and Workers Demand Action from McGuinty Liberals

More than a thousand protesters and labour union leaders across the province led by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) marched to the Ministry of Labour in downtown Toronto, May 6 to protest the denial of democratic rights for part-time post secondary workers. Chanting “Democracy Delayed is Democracy Denied!” and “Count the Votes Now!” the marchers demanded the Maguinty Liberal Government open ballot boxes and count the votes of disenfranchised part-time college and academic community workers.

Rally speakers demanded that the government intervene in the unreasonable delays in the counting of union certification ballots for college part-time academic and support workers.

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas, addressing the rally, criticized the inaction of the government on the “amended Colleges Collective Bargaining Act (CCBA).The Act technically allows part-time college workers in Ontario to unionize, but it has been a complete failure in practice,” he said.

“There are now several thousand part-time teachers, counsellors, technical and support staff who have exercised their rights and now cannot even join a union of their choice. What country are we living in?” asked Thomas.

For months now, part-time college academic and support workers, and part-time Ryerson support workers have been waiting to have their votes counted to join OPSEU.

For the past 17 months, part-time faculty at 24 colleges had their votes sealed in boxes. Likewise, part-time support staff have had their votes sealed in boxes since October of 2009. Also, part-time support staff at Ryerson University, a Broader Public Service (BPS) unit have had their certification ballots uncounted since March.

Under a new legislation, in order for the Ontario Labour Relations Board to order a vote, thirty five percent of the workers affected must sign union cards. The legislation also gives the colleges an opportunity to challenge the number of cards the union has signed. “This is exactly what two employers have done in the past year – the Ontario Colleges and also Ryerson University where OPSEU recently signed up part-time support staff workers,” MNO learned.

Speakers at the rally were CAAT members Betty Cree, Roger Couvrette, Candy Lindsay; Larry Brown of National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), John Cartwright of the Toronto and York Labour Council, Terry Downey of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) and Ken Newman of United Steel Workers (USW).

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