By Christopher Whan


The union representing the college’s support workers went over its members’ heads Sept. 18 in a move that Algonquin’s vice president of president of human resources said “overturns voting practices that have been followed by the parties in every ratification vote for over 35 years.”

In a memo to all full-time support staff, Gerry Barker said OPSEU, the union representing the support staff employees, “unilaterally chose to seal the ballot boxes at many colleges and send the ballots to the Ontario Labour Regulations Board to be counted. This will cause a delay until Oct. 1 before the official result can be announced.”

Barker said the labour board had said that the ballots could be counted Sept. 19, the day after the vote, in the presence of a OPSEU representative and the college.

“OPSEU’s actions overturn voting practices that have been followed by the parties in every college ratification vote for over 35 years.

“We are surprised and disappointed by OPSEU’s actions in this matter. The union provided no explanation for why they have disregarded the labour board’s directives.”

OPSEU support staff, which oversees the non-faculty functions at the college, voted on a tentative agreement recommended for approval by their provincial bargaining team the College Employer Council, the province’s bargaining agent.

An unofficial vote count was expected to be released late Sept. 18 saying whether the OPSEU accepted or denied an agreement put forth by the College Employer Council.

The agreement between the two sides expired on August 31.

The turn of events appeared to catch some members of Algonquin’s support staff by surprise.

“It’s a bit of a twist,” said OPSEU Local 416 President John Hanson, head of the union local here at the college.

Florry Foster, a member of the OPSEU bargaining team, said the union is “overstepping their boundaries” since normally the members can count the votes themselves with a representative from the union and the college present for an unofficial result before sending them to the OLRB. “We’ve negotiated for well over 35 years,” she said, adding that the union’s lack of trust in its members felt “belittling.”

The results of the vote will be released by the OLRB on Oct. 1. Of the 544 active members of the support staff union, 278 votes were cast, a 51 per cent voter turnout rate.

There are also signs of disunity appearing between OPSEU faculty locals and its provincial bargaining team. Algonquin’s faculty union, OPSEU Local 415, voted on whether to ratify a tentative agreement with the College Employer Council Sept. 23. The local, however, has recommended members here reject the tentative agreement, contrary to what its own provincial-level bargaining team has recommended.

“The decision to recommend rejection of the settlement offer was not taken lightly,” the Algonquin faculty union said in a Sept. 22 email to its members. “However, your local stewards have grave concerns about how this settlement could affect the quality of education for our students, the future of the college system, and the quality of your work life for years to come.”

The local said the agreement would remove caps on total teaching sections and weaken grievance options. As well, proposed salary increases are well below the rate of inflation, amounting to what would be a salary cut.