OPSEU Local 563: Representing FT and PT Support Staff at Humber College, Toronto,ON
OPSEU Local 563: Representing FT and PT Support Staff at Humber College, Toronto,ON
The College Support Full-Time bargaining team met with the employer last week on July 19, 20 and 21. It was our second week at the bargaining table. The union and the employer clarified a number of proposals from each side and provided context and reasoning.
We emphasized the importance of our demands and encouraged the employer to provide us with meaningful responses. Our members sent us to the table with these demands and the employer hasn’t addressed them yet. We made it clear to the employer that we are here to bargain and are expecting significant talks to happen at our next set of dates.
Although we are applying for an exemption to Bill 124 (which caps our wages to 1% per year for three years despite soaring inflation), there are also a number of non-monetary demands that we have tabled, including the following:
Fairness: Job competitions and job security
We have tabled the demand to give part-time and Appendix D employees access to full-time job competitions, and to have a system of equating job experience with levels of education. This will ensure that all members will have fair access to job competitions, and ensure that members with high levels of experience aren’t denied positions due to unnecessarily strict educational qualifications.
We’ve tabled a proposal to give members on probation access to vacancies when lay-off processes take place. We have also tabled language to eliminate final displacement, ensuring better job security.
Respect: Equity provisions for Indigenous members
After thorough consultations with Indigenous leaders and deep reflection, we created and tabled our proposals to start addressing some of the inherent barriers for Indigenous CAAT-S members. We will continue to reflect and seek guidance to ensure inequities are addressed and barriers removed.
The bargaining team has sent a strong message that the employer cannot ignore: Colleges must ensure that Indigenous employees have welcoming and inclusive workplaces that respect traditional ways and culture.
Dignity: Health and safety provisions and vacation time
We tabled the demand that all safety devices required by support staff be provided at no cost to the employee. Support staff typically spend more time in labs and other areas of the workplace, and require safety devices more often than any other working group.
We’ve also tabled the demand that we align the vacation calendar with the benefits calendar (January 1 to December 31), and to realign the date to request vacation to November 1. Currently, the vacation year starts on July 1, which means vacation entitlement gets reset in the summer when members typically need vacation days the most.
Stay tuned and get involved!
Four of your co-workers were elected in May at a provincial union meeting as mobilizers to work with support staff and build bargaining power on the ground. Those four mobilizers are:
Carla Tillpaugh (Regions 1 and 2):
St. Clair, Lambton, Fanshawe, Conestoga, Mohawk, Niagara and Sheridan Colleges
Éric Lacroix (Regions 3 and 4):
Durham, Georgian, Fleming, Loyalist, St. Lawrence, La Cité and Algonquin Colleges
Colette Cameron (Region 5):
Humber, Seneca, Centennial and George Brown Colleges
Lynn Ainslie (Regions 6 and 7):
Canadore, Sault, Cambrian, Boréal, Northern and Confederation Colleges
In the next several weeks the mobilizers will be holding bargaining events on campuses and virtually. The Bargaining Team will be available to attend these events (when possible) to connect directly with members and respond to your questions and listen to your concerns. Please keep an eye on your email and caatsftbargaining.org for more information about bargaining events and Q&A sessions.
Not getting bargaining update emails? Update your contact information by visiting caatsftbargaining.org today!
Your CAAT-S Bargaining Team:
Rasho Donchev, Chair
Christine Kelsey, Vice-Chair
Message from the Chair: Bargaining begins – and we corner Doug Ford
Oh, what a week this was! We started the week with an engaging discussion with our #support4success mobilizers on the communication and engagement strategies for this round of bargaining. The energy was incredible and filled the room with excitement and optimism.
Bargaining for the first time since August 2014 felt like riding a bike after a long time not riding. The first few hours prepping for our initial sit-down with the employer, our team ironed out all the rust that we may have accumulated over the past eight years. After six months of consultation, engagement and meaningful discussions, we crafted 40 proposals. These proposals reflect what Full-Time Support staff have told us need to be addressed in a meaningful way by the employer.
Our bargaining team exchanged proposals on June 15. Our opening statement outlined the ever-changing environment at our colleges and the increased demands on support staff for more work with less time and resources. Our incredible resilience, shown through COVID-19, needs to be recognized with dignity, fairness and respect. Dignity, fairness and respect are what we expect from our employer, and we will accept nothing less. We relayed a message that we wanted to have open and productive dialogue across the table.
This round may be difficult, considering Bill 124 and the current political environment, but we are hopeful that we will be able to achieve a good outcome, with your support. We had a chance encounter with Premier Ford in the lobby of the hotel, and we didn’t shy away. We engaged him in a direct, but respectful, discussion around the wage caps, the rising cost of everything, mortgage rates and our diminishing ability to pay our bills.
We told the Premier that if the province continues to put caps on wages, it will force people to leave the colleges, which would result in heavier workloads and create significant gaps in services for students. He listened and committed that his government was going to address issues stemming from Bill 124 for frontline workers, though he stopped short of including college workers or elaborate what he meant.
Whether Bill 124 is in place or not, we will make sure that we hold the employer to task and demand that our proposals be considered in the way we intended, and not turned into unreasonable concessions.
The colleges keep telling us that it is hard to recruit new employees, while they reject our members through job competitions, without offering useful feedback or ways to improve. They talk about equitable hiring practices, yet they treat us like strangers at interviews and ignore our contributions to the students’ success and college growth.
In the next pages, we have summarized our proposals and included the exchange document we gave the employer. We believe in transparency, open communication and accountability to all support staff.
The employer provided topics for discussion. The topics cover several areas in the collective agreement but did not provide sufficient detail. We asked them when we would be able to discuss their proposals in detail and were informed that we would not discuss them until the next bargaining week. This information was a bit disappointing, but we will continue our communication and mobilizing activities.
Our goal is to have newsletters released on each Monday after each week of bargaining.
Stay tuned, and always in solidarity, CAAT Support Full-Time Bargaining Team Our proposals
It was clear from the survey that fairness in our job competition process at colleges is very important to our members. Members with high levels of experience are struggling to compete for jobs due to the high and strict qualifications around education. One of the proposals put to the employer was a system to equate job experience with the different levels of education.
Another issue many locals are reporting is that the hiring process at various colleges for longer-term Appendix D positions is not done in a fair way. There is a proposal to bring the hiring of Appendix D employees in line with the hiring process for all full-time positions.
The bargaining team heard from many colleges that, despite many part-time and Appendix D employees working for years at the college, they struggle to compete for full-time positions. They are often overlooked in competitions that go to new hires from outside the colleges. To help create more equity, the proposal is to give part-time and Appendix D employees access to full-time job competitions.
Due to the pandemic, many colleges experienced layoffs. It became clear our job security language needed improvement. Many heartbreaking situations surfaced at several colleges where members who had been employed for years at the college finally secured a full-time job and were on probation, but due to the layoff and bumping process, were let go. Our proposal in this round of bargaining is to give members on probation access to vacancies. The bargaining team is also seeking improvements to the familiarization language to ensure employees can move to positions, even if they require some on the job training.
While there is no material change to the total number of vacation days, our proposal is for support staff to earn vacation days earlier. We are also asking to align the vacation calendar with our benefits calendar (January 1 to December 31) and realigning the date to request vacation to November 1 of each year. Aligning the vacation calendar with the benefits calendar eliminates the issue of members’ vacation being reset in the summer months, when they may typically need it most. Currently, the vacation year starts on July 1.
Health and safety
Support staff typically spend more time in labs and other areas in the college, requiring safety devices more often than any other working group. All safety devices required should be provided at no cost to the employee.
We have a very diverse membership who span the entire province and also live in Quebec. Including all provincial and federal holidays provides inclusivity, allowing members to observe all holidays and to reflect on the importance of the identified holidays. In addition to the public and statutory holidays, we proposed including the last working day off before December 25.
Many colleges decided to implement fully remote jobs, whereby the employee does not have an office space on campus. Our proposal is that the college provides the same office set up in their home as they would receive if working in the office. Our members have taken on increased workloads. Members want the ability to request a workload monitoring review to recognize imbalances in the volume of work assigned and a commitment from the employer that validates this gap. In the spirit of transparency, we are also looking for the employer to provide reporting on annual departmental overtime and lieu time to further identify workload issues.
All colleges offer tuition reimbursement for dependants, but the approach and the amounts provided are not consistent. Our proposal will provide a standardized approach and will include spouses as well. Our proposal on access to career counselling services will provide support to members who want to move within the organization. For those who are required to pay professional annual dues as a condition of their employment, we submitted a proposal for the reimbursement of all fees. The bargaining team has proposed increases to union time off to allow greater support for our members. A better union-supported membership allows for greater efforts to work collaboratively with the employer to solve problems as they arise. A major focus for this round of bargaining is the inclusion of language that supports changes to practices and systems to support equity, diversity and inclusion. We want to ensure that our work environments are free from systemic discrimination in all forms, and that we create space for under-represented groups. With internationalization at the forefront of many colleges, we need to ensure that our staff reflect the same diversity of our students. We are deeply committed to be purposeful in our journey to create the best experience for our students and our employees. As part of Truth and Reconciliation, our team will be having meaningful consultations and reflections with elders to help provide guidance on inclusive and culturally appropriate processes and policies for Indigenous peoples.
The bargaining team is relentlessly working to achieve a fair and equitable wage increase. The proposal is to add a cost-of-living increase tied to the rate of inflation and the Consumer Price Index. This would ensure that support staff would not see their wages reduced by rising inflation.
During the pandemic, it became very evident that the current structure of the leaves contained in the collective agreement are not adequate. The team is driving forward with proposals to increase the number of family care days and to have all days paid. The team have also tabled improvements to bereavement leave and added personal days to support better work/life harmony.
Your team has also heard you on the need for improvements to our benefits. Our proposals will address mental health and overall wellness, which include:
To help ensure and promote equity, we are bringing forward benefit coverage for Appendix D Members.
An expedited dispute resolution process for drug and medical coverage in urgent and emergency situations is being proposed.
The bright sun on Saturday morning reflected the buoyant mood of college full-time support delegates, alternates and observers as they gathered, in person and virtually, at the Sheraton Hotel in Toronto on April 30 to set their demands for the 2022 round of bargaining.
Also attending were a number of Executive Board Members, which included Veronica Attard from Region 4 and also a member of the division.
If there was a heightened sense of excitement, it was partly due to many of CAAT-S members’ not having experienced bargaining: The last time they were at the bargaining table was 2014. In 2017, support staff ratified a four-year extension of their collective agreement expiring August 31, 2022.
The President addresses the assembly
OPSEU/SEFPO President JP Hornick and OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Laurie Nancekivell set the tone for the two-day meeting. The newly elected President delivered a rousing message that hit all the right notes with members who share so much with Hornick, a college faculty member.
She underscored the unique relationship enjoyed by the union and college support, the first non-OPS members to join the union. She reflected on her on own long experience with support staff, calling them indispensable parts of the college ecosystem and assuring them they would enjoy every possible support from the union during bargaining.
As faculty bargaining team chair, Hornick is uniquely positioned to offer glimpses into the College Employer Council (CEC). She expressed what members knew: The employer consistently tries to divide and conquer the three college divisions. She pledged her full support to building bridges and having the hard conversations to help heal divisions.
Hornick denounced Doug Ford’s record of damage and called for the election of a government on June 2 that would repeal the wage-capping Bill 124 and legislate for the working people of Ontario – not CEOs.
FVPT draws attention to two saved academic years
First Vice-President/Treasurer Laurie Nancekivell expressed how good it was to be among people again – and how honoured she felt to address college support members – the “worker bees” who give so much of themselves to support college students. ]
To great applause, she underscored their sacrificial efforts to save two academic years. She also called on the CEC to “stop hiding” behind Bill 124 and pay workers proportionately to what they contribute.
Nancekivell said it was high time college employers stowed their notoriously elitist style of management in favour of an appreciation for the experience and expertise that make support workers the most qualified to make decisions that foster student success.
Outgoing DivEx chair reflects
Janice Hagan used her last occasion as DivEx chair to speak passionately about the last five years – the challenges, but also the achievements, especially the organizing of part-time support workers.
She took great pride in the progressive nature of CAAT-S, notably in the area of equity, where members were pioneers in fighting anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism.
She underscored the absolute need to strengthen unity among college members and the value of having a group of leaders making decisions, rather than just one.
Hagan emphasized the importance of wins made, in addition to overcoming present challenges and fighting for a better future, reminding members they were achieved on the backs of countless college support members since 1969. She singled out a commitment to centring equity, as well as the leadership CAAT-S have provided to their workplaces and to OPSEU/SEFPO as a whole.
As she took her leave, she said that after 115 semesters at the college and 100 in OPSEU/SEFPO, she was honoured to have been chair – and honoured now to step back.
Bargaining team chair sets out his vision
Bargaining Team Chair Rasho Donchev noted he had been involved with every bargaining team since 2007 – but had never experienced the “amazing dynamic” of this round’s team. He underscored their leadership qualities and diverse points of view – and their determination to move forward as one.
Donchev was also insistent on solidarity as the key to success, both within the division, but also among the three college divisions, since division was the employer’s most effective anti-union tool. He pointed out that even Amazon and Starbucks workers had leveraged unwavering solidarity to do the unthinkable: organize in the face of two of the most ferociously anti-union employers in the US.
He pointed out the obvious, but something even workers too often don’t grasp: Without workers, business can’t operate. True and ultimate power lies with the workers, not CEOs. Contract negotiations are the ideal moment for workers to flex their muscle, and the team was going to take full advantage, not to push extravagant demands, but to have members treated fairly and justly.
Following speeches, bargaining team members took turns presenting slide deck information dealing with the demands submitted and the bargaining environment. What were members seeking most? What have they achieved in the last 20 years, relative to other sectors like the OPS and hospitals? What are the wage caps imposed by Bill 124?
Delegates choose their representatives
The rest of the day was given over to the election of members and alternates to a number of committees, including:
Joint Insurance Committee
Dan Brisson, 672, chair
Xiaoyan Wang, 561, vice-chair
Michelle Dupuis, 137 Owen Smith, 731
CAAT Pension Plan representatives
Rasho Donchev, 559, trustee
Virginia Di Monte, 561, trustee
Veneise Samuels, 557, sponsor
Grievance Scheduling Committee
Veronica Attard, 416, chair
Shelly Gartshore, 124, vice-chair
Odessa Austin, 559
Join Classification Committee
Bob Holder, 243, chair
Christine Kelsey, 416, vice-chair
Naz Binck, 137
Ciaran Megahey, 557
Divisional Executive Board (DivEx)
Christine Kelsey, 416, chair
Megan Carter, 557, vice-chair
Rasho Donchev, 559
Dan Brisson, 672
Michael Mckeown, 353
Regional mobilizers Region 1: Carla Tillapaugh, 124
Regions 2 and 3: Eric Lacroix, 471
Region 5: Colette Cameron, 559
Regions 6 and 7: Lynn Ainslie, 656
Delegates build a demand set
For ease of organization, the team condensed some 600 demand submissions into 46 recommendations grouped into 13 categories. Each category was debated and voted upon:
health and safety
layoff and recall
leaves of absence
Megan Carter deconstructs racism
One of the highlights of the conference was a presentation from new DivEx Vice-Chair Megan Carter. After playing a video of collated clips from some 15 professional development videos Local 557 had created, Carter called on racialized delegates to relate their experience with racism and the barriers they had encountered.
A number of delegates courageously witnessed to some appalling encounters with racism in their workplaces and in job competitions – even though CAAT-S is one of the most diverse and most progressive of the union’s divisions. Delegates were quick to express their solidarity, and the prevailing mood was that this outrageous injustice could not, and must not, continue.
Celebrating May Day – the OPSEU/SEFPO way
Sunday’s lunch hour was extended to allow delegates to participate in May Day events, including a demonstration at Nathan Phillips Square across from the Sheraton.
Amidst a miserable drizzle and frigid temperatures, a number of courageous registrants and staff took the opportunity to hear labour leaders from across Toronto, including President Hornick speak passionately about the importance of International Workers’ Day – and the reasons we must urgently replace the Ford government this election.
The meeting wraps
Delegates sensed a renewed sense of solidarity that extended to their bargaining team. Notwithstanding the shadow cast by Bill 124, the conviction and talent of team members created an infectious feeling of optimism. Members left the conference knowing their next collective agreement was in highly competent hands.
Next steps May 9-13: The team prepares bargaining proposals:
Chair: Rasho Donchev, Local 559
Vice-Chair: Christine Kelsey, Local 416
Daniel Brisson, Local 672
Shelley Gartshore, Local 124
Robert Holder, Local 243
Michael McKeown, Local 353
Veneise Samuels, Local 557
June 2 – The teams submits its notice to bargain.
Scheduled bargaining dates:
August 22-September 2
August 31: The collective agreement expires.
March 18, 2022
Bargaining Survey Participation
The recent bargaining survey sent to Support Staff was completed by 3673 members from across all Colleges. Here are the numbers by College:
Algonquin 212, Boreal 71, Cambrian 143 , Canadore 27, Centennial 331, Conestoga 246 , Confederation 85, Durham100, Fanshawe 252, Fleming 146 , George Brown 359 , Georgian183, Humber 221, La Cite 53, Lambton 117, Loyalist 63, Mohawk 109, Niagara 220, Northern 61, Sault 65, Seneca 229, Sheridan 178, St. Clair 139, St. Lawrence 63.
Grand Total 3673
Satay stunned for latest information.