North Bay area health care staff met November 5 with local MPP Vic Fedeli and encouraged him to rethink his position and support their right to a fair and neutral arbitration process.
Fedeli is among those MPPs pushing radical changes to arbitration that would effectively end free collective bargaining for more than 200,000 health care workers in Ontario who, by law, are forbidden from striking. In place of the right to strike, they have been provided access to an impartial interest arbitration process under the Hospital Labour Disputes Arbitration Act (HLDAA).
At today’s lobby meeting, constituents presented the Nippissing MPP with information and data showing that in the hospital and long-term care sectors, arbitration is working well.
“We brought him an economist’s comparison of arbitrated settlements for the last two decades showing that health sector settlements are less generous than in other sectors, particularly the municipal sector that Fedeli is most familiar with. We are hopeful that he changes his mind because there is no basis to suggest the modest health sector outcomes are a problem when the complete opposite is true,” says North Bay long-term care worker Henri Giroux.
Arbitrated outcomes mirror negotiated wage and benefits in both the public and private sectors, explains Giroux. A few years ago, the Liberals freely negotiated a settlement giving provincial police an 18 per cent wage increase.
“That was replicated for police and then firefighters across the municipal sector, and is now causing municipalities to attack the arbitration system. There is no similar issue in the health care sector and we want our MPP to raise that with his own party and support our right to an independent arbitration system, free of government interference,” Giroux says.
Both the Ontario Progressive Conservatives (Fedeli’s party) and the Ontario Liberals are proposing drastic legislation that would end access to an independent arbitration process and impose contracts on health care workers. Fedeli’s PCs would go one step further and break existing contracts, a move that the courts have already ruled is unconstitutional. The PCs would also make an employer’s ability to pay, the primary focus. But arbitrators are already required, among other criteria, to consider an employer’s ability to pay. This was a change made by the Mike Harris PC government to the arbitration process which has been in place since the mid-1960s. Arbitrators get to decide what factors they consider relevant and how much weight they give to any one aspect of the criteria.
“This is why the system is deemed independent and fair,” says Giroux. What Fedeli and the PCs are now proposing would “force the arbitrators to give more weight to the ability to pay criteria than the others, and skew their ability to make independent decisions because public sector employers’ ability to pay is fully within the government’s control as the funder.”
Throughout November, hospital and long-term care workers, represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), will be meeting with their area MPPs and urging them not to support legislation that takes away their rights to unfettered collective bargaining and a balanced arbitration process.
For more information, please contact:
President, CUPE 146