Accusations of harassment and intimidation at OPSEU, reports Toronto Star

8 posts / 0 new
Last post
Unionist
Accusations of harassment and intimidation at OPSEU, reports Toronto Star

*

Unionist

Union pitted against union amid accusations of harassment, intimidation at OPSEU

Quote:

According to OPSSU [the union representing staff of OPSEU], four staff have been terminated, five workers suspended, and a total of 22 staff accused by OPSEU management of unauthorized strike action after they participated in a so-called “solidarity walk” during their coffee break, rallying around an embattled worker before a meeting where supervisors suspended her. OPSSU says it has filed an Unfair Labour Practice Complaint.

The latest conflict takes place against a backdrop of concerns about allegations of sexual harassment at headquarters first reported by the Toronto Star. At its April convention, OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas had to defend his handling of complaints from headquarters staff. [...]

“If our employers were doing this we would call it union-busting,” said Kevin MacKay, vice-president of OPSEU Local 240 at Mohawk College, who stressed he was speaking on behalf of other elected union leaders.

“Everyone I talk to who has known about this, they’re not okay with what’s going on. We want to see that stopped, we want to see retaliation against OPSSU stopped,” MacKay told me.

“It sends a horrible message to our employers. These are tactics that we would just decry in the strongest terms if they were happening in our workplaces, I think rightly so. It’s dirty pool, right? And so we can’t let this stand as union members.”

MacKay and other unionized college professors were themselves the targets of head office wrath earlier this year when they raised concerns about the work environment at headquarters. A formal libel notice from top managers at OPSEU accused MacKay and others of defamation for raising concerns about “an overall climate and toxic culture at OPSEU that allowed an employee to engage in systemic sexual harassment for years and for their failure to ensure a harassment-free workplace.”

 

mark_alfred

I'm sorry to hear of this.

I know nothing of the situation, but this caught my eye:

Quote:
22 staff accused by OPSEU management of unauthorized strike action after they participated in a so-called “solidarity walk” during their coffee break

Assuming they have two paid 15 minute coffee breaks and one unpaid 1/2 lunch break, it likely would have been better to do a workplace action like this during the unpaid 1/2 hour lunch break.  Paid time is still company time, even if it's a break, I believe.  That said, a suspension or a dismissal is overkill.  Surely they have progressive discipline within their agreement (again, I say that not knowing the history).

Here's the report from the OPSSU site.  It's less detailed than the Star report.  http://www.opssu.ca/?p=1664

Unionist

mark_alfred wrote:
Paid time is still company time, even if it's a break, I believe.  

I agree with everything you said (especially being sad about the whole situation), but I have a different take on a paid break being company time. If that were true, then the same restrictions would apply to vacations etc. The fact of being paid doesn't necessarily subject you to the "control and direction" of the employer. Nor does being on the employer's premises, if (for example - and I had to deal with this more than once for fellow workers and myself) you decide to distribute union propaganda during a paid break in the lunchroom, etc. That's protected activity, irrespective of it happening on company property or during working hours, so long as you're not interfering with "production".

mark_alfred

Another quick thought on OPSEU.  If I remember correctly, it's divided into three basic sections:  Ontario Public Service (OPS), Broader Public Service (BPS), and Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology (CAAT).  The OPS is one huge group that requires maintaining a huge strike fund.  Twenty or thirty years ago that wasn't the case, since unresolved contracts for the OPS automatically went to binding arbitration -- a strike or lockout was not permitted.  Various activists pushed for the right to strike, and got it.  Thus, I believe financial problems and tensions increased in OPSEU, leading to increased tensions between OPSEU and OPSUU.  The first lockout of OPSUU happened right after the first OPS strike by OPSEU during the Harris years.  It may be heresy to say it, but I think OPSEU was better off before the OPS had the right to strike.  ETA:  I am talking out of my hat, since I don't really know.

mark_alfred

Quote:

mark_alfred wrote:
Paid time is still company time, even if it's a break, I believe.  

I agree with everything you said (especially being sad about the whole situation), but I have a different take on a paid break being company time. If that were true, then the same restrictions would apply to vacations etc. The fact of being paid doesn't necessarily subject you to the "control and direction" of the employer. Nor does being on the employer's premises, if (for example - and I had to deal with this more than once for fellow workers and myself) you decide to distribute union propaganda during a paid break in the lunchroom, etc. That's protected activity, irrespective of it happening on company property or during working hours, so long as you're not interfering with "production".

Thanks.  That's very interesting.

MegB

I think it's important to note the source of the article, The Star, and how gleeful they are reporting on this. The Star is as traditionally anti-labour as the rest of the MSM.

Unionist

MegB wrote:

I think it's important to note the source of the article, The Star, and how gleeful they are reporting on this. The Star is as traditionally anti-labour as the rest of the MSM.

Yes (I don't trust The Star on labour issues) and no (it's not the sole source), Meg - as mark_alfred pointed out, the substance of the story is currently the lead item on the OPSSU web site