The Niagara News is the community newspaper of Niagara College located in Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada. It is created and produced by the students of the Niagara College Journalism program.
By KRISTIN KAYE Staff Writer The votes are in, but do they count? Not according to Ontario Colleges. The provincewide vote for part-time faculty to join the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) spanned three weeks starting Jan. 19, was held at all 24 colleges and ended Feb. 5. The ballots remain uncounted because of loopholes and supposed legal technicalities, such as only those people working in the month of January should be eligible to vote. Roger Couvrette, president of the Organization of Part-time and Sessional Employees of the Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology, speaks about the staff’s distaste for the situation. “These people are very frustrated with this roadblock. It is very unusual to call for a vote and then turn around and say, ‘Oh, we’re not going to count it.’” He also sets the record straight. “The general rule is that if you have an employment relationship with a college, then you’re eligible [to vote].” Bruce Harper is vice-president for OPSEU Local 242 here, sits on the Employee/Employer Relationship Committee and is a teacher in the English department at the Niagara-on-the-Lake campus. He had this to say. “Most of us at OPSEU are disappointed that after supporting (at least in theory) collective bargaining, it is now into March and most of those involved will only be teaching a few more months. It’s kind of a kick in the teeth to them.” Gordon Hunchak, director of marketing and communications for Niagara College, said in the Jan. 30 edition of Niagara News, “From the college’s standpoint, we think it’s a very important initiative and would like to see them vote and express their opinion. We feel we’ve got a great relationship with all staff and faculty, and regardless of the outcome of this vote, we will continue to make sure that’s the case.” Sheri Rosen, president and chief steward for OPSEU Local 242, points out, “All they’re doing by holding this back is showing their hypocrisy.” Harper points out the necessity of a good workplace relationship. “It’s one thing to say we are the employer of choice, it’s another to have your employees validate it. It seems odd to have sealed ballots and hire lawyers and have that cost come from the education budget. Just count the votes.” Couvrette is disappointed with the Dalton McGuinty government’s lack of involvement in this matter. “We would’ve hoped that the minister would have stepped in and told them [the colleges] to stop this, but that did not happen.” He continues. “We are trying to tell them that they are wasting time and taxpayers’ money.” Lawyers representing OPSEU and the colleges will be meeting to discuss the issues and a plan of action on March 31. Couvrette elaborates. “It’s the first time the issues are being addressed. It is the beginning of the process to deal with them.”