Seneca College union cannot gather on campus

Union's request patently broad: Arbitrator

The union that represents workers at Seneca College was denied a request for permission to engage in union activity on campus, and rightly so, an arbitrator has decided.

According to the collective agreement, there could be no solicitation of membership dues, meetings or other union activities on college property, except as specifically stated otherwise.

On Oct. 9, 2014, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) formally requested permission to gather on campus in areas like the cafeteria “for the purpose of informing students and other members of the Seneca community of imminent staffing changes at Seneca, and to solicit opinions of such.”

The college initially denied the request, saying it would be inappropriate and disruptive, adding that the impact on operations was unknown.

However, OPSEU said that a serious issue had arisen concerning the elimination of many partial-load faculty positions, the implications of which the union believed should be communicated to the Seneca community at large. The union said it was the college’s duty to assess the request in good faith, which it did not, and therefore the grievance was filed.

Arbitrator James Hayes sided with Seneca.

The collective agreement said such requests would “not be reasonably withheld,” and because of the nature of relationships between union and college, Hayes said he was surprised the issue had not come up before and without precedent.

Hayes called the union’s request “patently over-broad” and therefore it was reasonable that the employer denied the request.

“The union could have, and should have, particularized its request from the outset,” Hayes said.
“Similarly, the college could have, and should have, taken the opportunity to clarify its concerns.”

Therefore, the grievance was dismissed.

Reference: Seneca College and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) Local 560. James Hayes – arbitrator. Billeh Hamud for the union, Gregory Power for the employer. March 16, 2016.

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