By Vanessa Greco
Employees working in the Student Campus Centre (SCC) and Oakham House may soon be working for a unionized management team.
An upcoming hearing before the Ontario Labour Relations Board will determine whether the SCC and Oakham House management team is allowed to unionize with CUPE.
The hearing, on Sept. 22 and 23 will pit the management team against their governing board, the Palin Foundation and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) — both of whom oppose the unionization.
“We’re the only employees in the Student Campus Centre that aren’t unionized,” said Alana Corkery, Oakham House food and beverage manager. “We’re just trying to accomplish a fair workplace.”
“They knew the implications before accepting their jobs,” said Louise Lichacz, chair of OPSEU Local 596.
Last April, when the management team’s application to join the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) was filed, the Palin Foundation and OPSEU contested it, arguing that management can’t unionize under the Labour Relations Act.
The Palin Foundation and OPSEU are challenging the move to unionize on two different issues. The Palin Foundation is arguing that management cannot organize. OPSEU is arguing that if they’re allowed to organize they should have been aligned with OPSEU from the start.
If the Labour Relations Board determines the management team can unionize, it will be a fight to see if they unionize with CUPE or OPSEU.
OPSEU Local 596 represents the 90 employees who work as servers, kitchen staff and support staff in the Ram in the Rye, Oakham House Cafe and conference services in the SCC and Oakham House.
“The general manager is not included in the unionization fight,” said Lichacz. “Because of the nature of the job, the general manager can never unionize. Even if they were to unionize, they should be with OPSEU before anybody. We were there all along.”
Corkery said it would be a conflict of interest to join OPSEU and manage Oakham House’s support staff because they would be protected by the same union and may have different interests.
As well, according to Corkery, the SCC and Oakham House management staff do not have the authority to hire and fire without consultation with their general manager. They argue they lack the authority to be managers.
Lichacz doesn’t believe this argument is valid.
“They’re the ones making the decision even if someone else signs it off,” she said.
Finance manager at Oakham House, Sajjad Sadiq, thinks it’s unfair for an “island of people” in the SCC to be without a union.
“If full-time managers at the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) can be unionized why can’t we?”