The ballots for a 2016 vote by part-time public college support staff on whether to join the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union will now be opened and counted, the labour board announced on Friday.
Voting ended on the labour representation poll on June 30 of last year, but the boxes stayed sealed as the College Employer Council argued that the ballot boxes should not be opened.
The council alleged OPSEU did not show that 35 per cent of part-time support staff had signed union cards as required under the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act to kickstart a legal vote.
However, after over a year of legal stalling, the Ontario Labour Relations Board ruled that OPSEU had met the threshold.
“This is an extremely significant event in labour relations in Ontario,” said union President Warren Thomas in a statement.
Thomas, also known by his nickname “Smokey”, said that “an estimated 12,000 part-time support staff work in the colleges at any time. Part-time staff include those working 24 hours or fewer per week and include many students.”
OPSEU expects that when the vote is counted it will be a positive result in favor of joining the union, but a date has yet to be finalized for the count.
“In our work on college campuses, we heard loud and clear that part-time support staff want a stronger voice in the workplace,” he said.
“College support staff know that OPSEU has been a leader in this province on the workplace issues they care about.”
I am confident that, when those ballots are counted, we will find that part-time college support staff have entrusted our union with the responsibility of improving their lives at work.”
This has occurred while the College Employer Council, which represents the 24 public colleges in collective bargaining, and the faculty union are in private binding arbitration following a strike that lasted five weeks and ended in back-to-work legislation.
Thomas thanked the union members and staff in the statement who had assisted thousands of college support staff sign union cards to trigger last year’s vote.
“It took dozens of members and dedicated OPSEU staff to make this happen,” Thomas said. “I especially want to thank Connie Huziak, who was the lead organizer on this monumental campaign. Her work made this great accomplishment happen.”
There has been no comment from the College Employer COuncil at this time.
More details to follow. Image 1 of ballot box placeholder from Huffpost.