By Dominique Blain
Oakham House employees will be voting to unionize Thursday. On Jan. 26, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) submitted an application for certification with the Oakham House Palin Foundation, which employs workers in the Ram in the Rye, the Oakham House cafe and the Student Campus Centre.
By law, voting on the issue usually happens five business days after notification, which would be Feb. 2. “I had no indication it was forthcoming,” said Rob Emerson, general manager of the Oakham House Palin Foundation. Connie Huziak, an organizer for OPSEU, said that “in this particular situation, the employee approached OPSEU” to seek unionization. In its original application for certification, OPSEU indicated that hospitality and food services employees were part of the “proposed unit” for unionization.
This excluded staff working at the SCC’s front desk, amongst others, but included part-time, full-time and student employees. Emerson indicated concern with OPSEU’s grouping of employees. In his response to OPSEU (submitted to the Ontario Labour Relations Board Monday), Emerson submitted that 90 workers employed by Oakham House Palin Foundation (all employees minus managerial and supervisory staff) should be included in the bargaining unit, as opposed to OPSEU’s suggested 68.
Huziak responded the same day saying that OPSEU had agreed to the new bargaining unit and that all 90 workers, which includes administrative and front desk staff, are now invited to cast a ballot on the issue, which requires 50 per cent plus one to go through. Emerson supports his employees’ right to unionize.
“I think we’ve been doing an excellent job for employee relations,” he said. “I think our employees are pleased. “(But) it’s well within their rights to unionize. Our role in this process is to ensure that we’re acting as required and being co-operative with the process. We will certainly be providing our employees (with information) to make sure they’re making the educated decision.”
Still unclear is whether the union would become part of Local 596, Ryerson’s OPSEU local. Oakham House Palin Foundation employees are in no way employed by Ryerson University, but Huziak suggested that the group would for a separate bargaining unit within Local 596.