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College reviewing policy after complaints from OPSEU

Union says Durham’s policy on employee political activity “suppresses” democracy

Durham College president Don Lovisa admits the school’s Community Elections and Political Activity policy is “creating confusion rather than clarity,” and has moved to have the policy amended. (Photo courtesy of Durham College)

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

After an outcry from the union representing Durham College workers, the school’s president says he will ‘review and amend’ its policies regarding employee participation in political activity.

According to a news release sent by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) earlier, college (DC) employees received an email in late-April that cited a policy they “may not engage in political activity…inside and outside the workplace.”

OPSEU officials condemned the policy.

“Democracy is precious and should not be needlessly suppressed,” OPSEU president Warren “Smokey” Thomas stated.

The union also stated because colleges are no longer Crown Agencies in Ontario, and haven’t been so for a decade, the political activity of employees is not restricted and demanded a retraction from the school.

In a statement, DC president Don Lovisa stated the school developed its Community Elections and Political Activity policy several years ago “to uphold this necessary division and guidance to employees on balancing professional and personal activities when it comes to politics.”

“As a publicly-funded institution, DC must be ready, willing and able to work effectively with government at all levels, regardless of political party, and for this reason, it is imperative that separation between professional duties and personal opinions of employees be maintained,” Lovisa said in the statement.

However, he acknowledged that the policy’s language “is creating confusion rather than clarity,” specifically in regarding to “where, when and how DC employees participate in political activities.”

Because of this, Lovisa said he has taken immediate action to have the policy reviewed and amended.

“I have every confidence that the immediate policy review, informed by the college’s values of integrity and transparency, respect, equal access and diversity, personal and team accountability and collaboration, will allow the college to move forward in a fair and unbiased manner during the election period that both serves the interests of our students and honours our employees,” Lovisa sated.

As of Friday, June 1, the policy had been amended and was undergoing to the college’s approval process.

“This has included review and approval by College Council, which includes faculty representation, and the Durham College Leadership Team. The college is keeping OPSEU updated and, as always, continuing to uphold its commitment to academic freedom and encourage employees’ full participation in the democratic process,” a statement from DC reads.