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Part-Time College Workers: Top Of Mind?

Part-Time College Workers: Top Of Mind?

by Darryl Bedford, March 11 2016


Recently on February 28,  London North Centre MPP and Deputy Premier Deb Matthews visited Fanshawe College to speak with students in the School of Business.

First, some background: You may recall that until 2008 the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act (Ontario) did not permit part-time support staff or part-time/sessional faculty to join a union. Following the 2008 CCBA amendments which allowed for part-time bargaining units, OPSEU undertook an organizing drive. Workers voted. However, the colleges spent huge amounts of money on Hicks Morley lawyers to mire the process in legal red tape. The end result was democracy denied: the ballots were never  counted and later destroyed.


Deputy Premier Matthews was asked the following question by our friend Dana Copeland, Secretary,  OPSEU Local 109 Fanshawe Support Staff:


“Part-time workers in Ontario colleges work without many of the workplace protections other Ontarians enjoy because colleges are exempt from the Employment Standards Act.

College part‑time workers earn significantly less than fulltime workers doing the same work.

They don’t have any paid sick time or statutory holiday pay. They did not get paid for Family Day as an example.

They have no drug benefits and no job security.

It seems self-serving for the Ontario government to take advantage of people by keeping legislation in place that allows that to happen.

Can you address this inequity?

Are there plans to fix this?”

At first Deb seemed very confused by the question and said that the union would need to address it in bargaining.   When Dana pointed out that part-time workers do not have a union, Deb seemed to clue in realizing that faculty would need a certain number of hours to be in the bargaining unit. She mentioned her son had taught as contract faculty at Sheridan College.

Matthews then said that they were concerned about quality education and continuity of faculty, and that it was “top of mind” for her.

“Top of mind”?  That doesn’t reflect the feeling of the thousands of part-time support staff and thousands of part-time/sessional faculty at Ontario colleges. They’ve felt abandoned and ignored by this government.

#SignUp For Fairness

Fortunately, there is hope. On Monday, OPSEU applied to represent part-time support staff. Fairness begins here.

For those of us who work full-time in the colleges, we are supporting our part-time colleagues. For us, the people we work with every day truly are “top of mind.”


Darryl Bedford is the President of OPSEU Local 110, the Fanshawe College Faculty Union.


An Update: What a Difference a Year Makes

Darryl’s Note from July 8 2017: If you’ve ever thought that we can’t make a difference in just a year, guess again! The Ontario government has introduced Bill 148 (Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act) to bring all college workers under the Employment Standards Act. That move is to be applauded. However, that simply brings precariously employed college workers up to the absolute minimum standard. To make real progress and to have a voice in the workplace, part-time support staff and contract faculty need a union. In the time since I wrote this piece, OPSEU has not only applied to represent part-time support staff but now has applied to represent part-time and sessional faculty. Much work has been done and there is more to do. Forward!