Teach­ers to fight On­tario pub­lic sec­tor wage hike cap

North Bay Nugget - - FRONT PAGE - JEN­NIFER HAMIL­TON-MCCHARLES

Pass­ing leg­is­la­tion that puts a cap on wage in­creases for pub­lic ser­vice work­ers while teach­ers are in the mid­dle of al­ready tense con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions has an­gered their unions, which are threat­en­ing le­gal ac­tion. bill 124, which caps pub­lic sec­tor wage hikes to one per cent over the next three years, be­came law Thurs­day evening. Hours later, the four ma­jor unions rep­re­sent­ing high school, ele­men­tary, Catholic and French teach­ers in the prov­ince is­sued a joint state­ment con­demn­ing it and warn­ing they are pre­par­ing a court chal­lenge. “it puts the lie to the min­is­ter’s claim that he was in­ter­ested in ne­go­ti­at­ing in good faith,” Har­vey Bischof, the pres­i­dent of the On­tario Sec­ondary School Teach­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion, said Fri­day. “This is the ex­act op­po­site of that. It is cor­ro­sive of trust and any at­tempt to come to cre­ative so­lu­tions that both sides can sup­port.”

Glen Hodg­son, pres­i­dent of the Near North lo­cal of the On­tario Sec­ondary School Teach­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion, said the tim­ing of the cap couldn’t be worse, with the prov­ince and teach­ers’ unions cur­rently at the bar­gain­ing ta­ble.

“But in­stead they’re try­ing to pass leg­is­la­tion to dic­tate or try to over­ride our ne­go­ti­a­tions. Rather than ne­go­ti­ate a fair deal, they’re bul­ly­ing us,” Hodg­son said.

Hodg­son said all front-line staff are be­ing hit while the prov­ince’s top bu­reau­crats could see an in­crease if they hit cer­tain pay-for-per­for­mance tar­gets.

“We just want the prov­ince to treat every­one fairly, not only Ford’s rich friends.”

High school teach­ers could be in a le­gal strike po­si­tion later this month, teach­ers in the English

Catholic sys­tem are in the process of hold­ing strike votes, and ele­men­tary teach­ers an­nounced Fri­day that they will be in a le­gal strike po­si­tion on Nov. 25.Salary ne­go­ti­a­tions are typ­i­cally a cen­tral part of such bar­gain­ing, but the new law now lim­its any in­creases to one per cent a year for the next three years.

Trea­sury Board Pres­i­dent Peter Beth­len­falvy called it a “fair and time-lim­ited ap­proach” to elim­i­nat­ing the $9-bil­lion deficit. “it doesn’t im­pinge on the process to col­lec­tively bar­gain,” he said Fri­day. “It doesn’t im­pose any wage freezes. It al­lows for an in­crease.

It’s not a roll­back.” bischof coun­tered that any “ar­ti­fi­cial re­stric­tion” on what can be achieved at the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble in­ter­feres in col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing. although the bill passed Thurs­day evening, it is retroac­tive to June 5, when it was first an­nounced. more than one mil­lion pub­lic sec­tor work­ers would be af­fected by the bill, which ap­plies to em­ploy­ees at school boards, uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges, hos­pi­tals, long-term care homes and other or­ga­ni­za­tions.the United Steel­work­ers, which rep­re­sents thou­sands of pub­lic-sec­tor work­ers, par­tic­u­larly in the uni­ver­sity sec­tor, called the leg­is­la­tion “re­gres­sive” and said it tar­gets mid­dle­and low-in­come work­ers. The union agreed with the teach­ers that it vi­o­lates work­ers’ con­sti­tu­tional rights.the teach­ers’ unions won a court chal­lenge sev­eral years ago against the Lib­eral govern­ment. Leg­is­la­tion known as Bill 115 froze some of their wages and lim­ited their abil­ity to strike, and the judge

ruled that the govern­ment “sub­stan­tially in­ter­fered with mean­ing­ful col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing .” on­tario was left hav­ing to pay more than $100 mil­lion in reme­dies to the unions. beth len f alvy sug­gested that ex­pe­ri­ence wasn’t re­ally a fac­tor in putting to­gether his leg­is­la­tion. “i think what we did was say, ’Let’s put some­thing to­gether that makes sense,”’ he said. “It wasn’t de­signed with any sort of look back or look for­ward. It was just, what is a rea­son­able thing to do, given the cir­cum­stances we have.” the govern­ment said the wage cap bill re­spects the bar­gain­ing process, and noted that it still al­lows for em­ploy­ees to get raises for se­nior­ity, per­for­mance or in­creased qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

Nipiss­ing MPP Vic Fedeli in­sists the govern­ment has been trans­par­ent in its ap­proach.

“We are now de­liv­er­ing on a com­mit­ment an­nounced in the 2019 bud­get. The Pro­tect­ing a Sus­tain­able Pub­lic Sec­tor for Fu­ture Gen­er­a­tions Act, 2019 al­lows for rea­son­able wage in­creases while pro­tect­ing the prov­ince’s front­line ser­vices,” he said.

“This is a fair, con­sis­tent and time-lim­ited ap­proach that ap­plies across the en­tire pro­vin­cial pub­lic sec­tor. The ap­proach to com­pen­sa­tion for (On­tario pub­lic sec­tor) lead­ers ends au­to­matic ad­just­ments. This means across­the-board in­creases will be zero per cent. Lead­ers will only be el­i­gi­ble for ad­just­ments in com­pen­sa­tion if they meet or ex­ceed per­for­mance com­mit­ments in suc­cess­fully de­liv­er­ing on out­comes aligned to govern­ment pri­or­i­ties.”

Fedeli said go­ing for­ward, deputy min­is­ters will no longer be el­i­gi­ble for au­to­matic in­creases.

Har­vey Bischof

Glen Hodg­son

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