by Brad Whitehouse
Kiera Chion wants to make sure what happened to her last year doesn’t happen to anyone else after she had to fight for fair pay at the Women’s Centre. She and other Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) community service group members weren’t paid for hours of overtime and didn’t know what to do, she said.
And Chion got little assistance from the Career Centre and the Ombudsperson.
“The bottom line was ‘If you don’t have a union, we can’t help you’,” said Chion.
The masters grad, currently employed by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), is now spearheading a union drive for Ryerson employees who work fewer than 24 hours a week.
She said Ryerson’s part-time workers are the only group of employees without a union. If 40 per cent of Ryerson’s 800 part-time workers sign a blue union card, a vote for a union will be called by the Ontario Labour Relations Board. Chion hopes to get enough cards signed by the end of this year.
OPSEU wouldn’t comment on how many signatures they have received. The proposed union, which she said is probably the first of its kind in Ontario, would also represent students employed in work-study jobs like Tri-Mentoring and Media Services among others.
Chion wants to lobby for better job security for part-timers who often have to reapply for the same jobs each fall, despite having held the position previously.
Ben Weinstock, a second-year child and youth care student who volunteers for OPSEU, wants to see more training for workers.
Weinstock remembers working as a counselor at RyePRIDE with very little experience. When a girl came in bawling because she was confused about her sexuality, he didn’t know what to do. He hadn’t been trained for that type of situation.
“I gave her a paper plate to wipe her eyes with. I didn’t even have Kleenexes,” Weinstock said.
Outside of the movement, however, some workstudy students said they didn’t know much about the union, even though they had been asked to sign a union card. Marta Onyschuck, a second year business management student who works part time at the Career Centre, said the OEPSU representative who contacted her was pushy when trying to have her sign a union card.
“He was very insistent on filling it out,” she said.