“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
This seems to be the perfect proverb when applied to the successful organizing drive by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) in its persistent efforts to represent part-time college support staff.
The efforts to unionize the workforce of approximately 20,000 part-time employees took over fourteen years. The first attempts by OPSEU began in 2005. The bargaining unit was certified by the Ontario Labour Relations Board in January 2018. A first collective agreement was achieved between OPSEU and the College Employer Council in February, 2019.
This chronology of events is significant for many reasons. First, it outlines the challenging processes that unions face when trying to form a bargaining unit that included thousands of workers. Second, the workforce was transient – meaning that there was high turnover of employees from contract to contract or term to term. Support staff in Ontario’s college sector did not have the benefit of job security given their part-time status. Further, these workers did not have the procedural rights, such as the ability to file grievances or the consistent application of wage increases, when comparing these rights to their permanent, full-time unionized colleagues.
An analysis of the impact of the successful organizing drive and the collective bargaining process is outlined in a recent article posted by Canadian HR Reporter.
This article provides us with a solid overview of the processes involved through the various steps of an organizing campaign. It also articulates some of the elements of resistance taken by the employer for this particular union drive.
As noted through the article, the union and the employer were locked in the struggle over unionization for such a long time. Now that the battle for representation and the first collective agreement is over, it will be interesting to see whether or not they are able to progress through peaceful labour relations for the next fourteen years.
- What is the significance of having union cards signed by employees in order to be represented by a union?
- From the article, identify three potential benefits that unionization brings to part-time college support staff.
- Who is the employer for college support staff in Ontario? Who does the employer represent?
- In your opinion, why would the employer resist unionization for this workforce?