When the Ford government introduced legislation to cap on public sector workers’ wages on June 5, the Society informed members that this measure would have a negative impact on their compensation. The impact is now apparent at Ontario Power Generation and Ontario Energy Board, where Society locals are presently working on collective agreement renewal.
While the wage cap legislation has not been passed into law, the bill that was introduced in the spring said that it when it is passed it would be retroactive to June 5, 2019. Consequently, public sector employers are insisting that they are required to abide by that cap. Additionally, the directive that all public sector collective agreements must be approved by Treasury Board — a central government agency of the provincial government — remains in effect.
On June 28, OPG Local Vice President Joe Fierro wrote to that local’s members to inform them that two-party bargaining had not resulted in a collective agreement and the process would move to arbitration, in part because of the Ford government’s interference:
In addition to OPG’s demand for significant concessions, this round of bargaining has also been disrupted by Premier Doug Ford’s proposed wage restraint legislation. Even though this legislation has not yet been passed into law and may be unconstitutional, OPG claims that they must abide by it. This means OPG insisted total compensation – including salary and benefit improvements – must not exceed 1% more than the previous year’s total compensation. Your Bargaining Team is frustrated with the Ford government’s introduction of legislation that will interfere with free collective bargaining. We are also frustrated with OPG’s position that they are bound by a Bill that is not law.
Meanwhile, the same wage restraint driven by provincial legislation is also play a role in negotiations at Ontario Energy Board. Following eight days of two-party negotiations, the Society and OEB have engaged a conciliator to assist in reaching a deal. Fortunately, OEB Local Vice President Laurie Reid reports that “conciliation has been helpful and the two sides are not far apart.” The OEB Local is hosting a meeting for their members on July 25 to provide a bargaining update and solicit input.
In May, prior to the wage cap legislation’s introduction and as the Society informed members at the time, the provincial government invited unions to participate in consultations on wage restraint. Based on the scope of the consultations and lack of interaction with participating unions it appeared the consultations were intended to head off a legal challenge to the wage cap legislation that would come later. The Society participated with the assistance of legal counsel to ensure members’ rights were protected throughout the process. Members can read the Society’s energy sector and Legal Aid Ontario submissions to the consultations.