Union results up in the air
Friday, September 3, 20100 Comments
The results of a unionzation vote held by research assistants at the University of Guelph will remain unknown until a dispute o
Are they or aren’t they?
Research assistants at the University of Guelph cast ballots Wednesday on a proposal to unionize as part of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
But the results of that vote will remain unknown until a dispute over who is considered an employee of the university makes its way to the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
A press release by CUPE Local 3913, representing Teaching Assistants and Sessional Instructors at the University of Guelph, called the vote “inconclusive” because a third of the ballots hadn’t yet been counted toward the total.
“Although right now it appears that there are more ‘no’ votes than ‘yes’ votes, nearly one third of ballots have been segregated – that means the employment status and/or eligibility of the voters is being challenged, and their votes have not yet been counted,” said Trudi Lorenz, Chair of CUPE 3913 in the release.
The release did not make clear whether those votes, if all counted, would make a difference in the outcome.
Prior to the unionization vote, the University of Guelph filed a challenge with the labour board, claiming that Graduate Research Assistants (GRAs) are not employed by the university and thus not eligible to unionize.
Tracey Jandrisits, U of G’s Manager of Faculty Relations and Executive Advisor to the Provost who was cited as the responding party in the Labour Board application, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Lori Bona Hunt, a spokesperson Communications and Public Affairs, told thecannon prior to the vote that the university considered GRAs to be students receiving financial aid through programs like Graduate Research Assistantships, not employees.
An August 30th decision written by OLRB Vice-Chair Caroline Rowan ruled that disputed GRAs would be allowed to vote and that a determination of their employment status would be made at a later date.
The OLRB also denied a request by the university to have the disputed ballots sealed.
“Counting the ballots may in fact render a determination of the status of GRAs moot” if there were sufficient no votes, Rowan pointed out in her ruling.
That no longer seems to be the case, and Local 3913 members were preparing to make their case before the Labour Board, said Staff Representative Toni Xerri in the press release.
“It’s not uncommon for an employer to dispute the status of some employees during a certification vote,” Xerri said. “We believe that these people are employees in this bargaining unit, and we’ll keep fighting for them to be given that status.”
The Labour Board has scheduled a hearing for both parties at the end of September.