Toronto - After 18 months of legal wrangling, over 4,000 ballots cast by part-time college support staff in a union representation vote held last year will now be counted, the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) has ruled.
Lawyers for the College Employer Council, representing all 24 public colleges in the province, had argued that the votes should not be counted. Council claimed that the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) had not shown that 35 per cent of part-time support staff had signed union cards as required under theColleges Collective Bargaining Act (CCBA) to trigger a legal vote.
In a ruling today, the OLRB said the union had met the threshold and that the votes should now be counted. The ballots have been sealed in boxes since voting ended on June 30, 2016.
“This is an extremely significant event in labour relations in Ontario,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “It was the largest union drive in Canadian history; I’m excited to know the result.”
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. The union is optimistic of a positive result when the votes are tallied, Thomas said.
“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.”
Thomas also thanked the OPSEU members and staff who had helped 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.”
No date has been set for the counting of the ballots.