Union vote could count for nothing

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By Carys Mills

The sealed ballot boxes filled with workers’ views on union representation might never be opened if the 181 votes cast are deemed invalid.

Part time Ryerson support workers and workstudy students decided whether they wanted to join the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) on Monday.

But Ryerson and the union disagree on the number and type of staff able to participate so the vote could be invalid, according to the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

For the vote to be called, OPSEU had to collect signed cards from 40 per cent of the employees who could be affected.

While OPSEU says 1,100 workers could be unionized, the university says 1,600 qualify. That difference of 500 workers could change the number of signed cards needed to call the vote.

“If it turns out the bargaining unit is larger, then they didn’t have 40 per cent,” said Voy Stelmaszynsky from the Ontario Labour Relations Board, which negotiates between employers and unions.

“It would be worth nothing.”

Ninety-two votes will be looked at separately, said Larissa Allen, assistant vice-president of human resources. Some workers were not on the voters’ list. Others are in dispute by either the school or OPSEU.

The two parties have until Mar. 31 to try to resolve their differences, and only then will the ballot boxes be opened. If negotiation doesn’t work, a hearing will be held in April.

“Normally it would be nice to have an agreement first,” said Allen.

OPSEU organizer, Kiera Chion, said contested ballots were marked and will be discussed before counting takes place.

If the vote counts, it will take 50 per cent plus one vote for workers to join the union.

It could mean higher wages and benefits like sick days if that’s what workers want to bargain for, Chion said. Union dues would be 1.375 per cent of wages, $20 per semester if a worker made $2,000.

Creating unions at universities could be more confusing than other workplaces, according to Joseph Rose, a McMaster University human resources professor.

“You do run into problems at universities where people have two roles,” Rose said of students who also work on campus.

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