Union vows to help non-members fired for refusing to cross picket line

New agreement contains ‘non-reprisal’ language protecting all employees: union
|labour-reporter.com|Last Updated: 09/29/2011

Four part-time non-union employees are without a job after Georgian College fired them for refusing to cross the picket line during the three-week Ontario college support staff strike.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) is now considering what they can do to help the fired employees, who are not members of the union.

“This is a grievous reprisal by the management of Georgian College,” OPSEU communication manager Greg Hamara told The Barrie Advance. “We will take some sort of action.”

Hamara told the paper that Section 3.1 of the support staff contact contains non-reprisal language that covers any college employee, whether they are part of the OPSEU bargaining unit or not.

OPSEU represents the province’s 8,000 college support staff who walked off the job Sept. 1, 2011 after negotiations for a new contract failed. Georgian College has 350 staff who took part in the strike.

The college disagrees and says that the terminations were necessary in order to remain fair to other employees who continued to work during the strike.

“No one likes to cross a picket line, but hundreds of staff and faculty, including unionized faculty, did so every day to serve our students,” Angela Lockridge, Georgian College’s human resources vice-president, told The Advance. “Those who made their own decision not to cross the picket line were informed of the expectations under their employment contracts.”

“The strikers had a legal right to strike and other unionized college staff had a contractual obligation to be at work serving our students,” Lockridge said.

OPSEU reached a tentative agreement on Sept. 18 after members at 24 colleges across the province held an 18-day strike. Details of the agreement — including the non-reprisal language — will be made available after the scheduled Oct. 4 ratification vote.

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