Dissent - Interest Arbitration - Award 2022
Union Nominee Partial-Dissent re: OPSEU Local 331 and Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Services
Although I have disagreements with specific aspects of the Chair’s award, once again the largest impediment to a fair and more balanced outcome is the perverse impact of the Ford government’s Bill 124 on collective bargaining.
The legislated outcome on compensation issues removes any real incentive for employers to do the work required to achieve common ground with union bargaining teams on contentious, non-compensation related issues. When the synergistic impact of the pandemic is added to a labour relations climate already poisoned by Bill 124, the results are predictable and will have long term negative impacts on labour relations.
By all accounts, the round of bargaining leading to this arbitration was as short as it was fractious, with many items that ought to have been resolved between the parties themselves remaining on the table. The union brought 18 issues to arbitration and the employer 4.
With respect to the employer’s proposals, it has to be said that asking the Board to grant it increased power to fire part-time employees for alleged failure to meet their availability and weekly hours of work commitments, without reasons acceptable to the employer, in the middle of a pandemic was not only factually unnecessary but also extremely provocative to a union whose membership is close to 40% part-time.
I fully support the Chair’s dismissal of that proposal as well as other tone deaf employer demands to cut bereavement leave entitlement as well as weaken full-time employee sick leave re-qualification rights when returning from a leave due to illness or injury that crosses from one calendar year to the next. These proposals lacked any demonstrated need and convey a breath-takingly insensitive attitude in the face of the challenges confronting hospital workers during the continuing covid-19 crisis.
I also agree with the Chair’s rejection of the employer’s request to eliminate one of the two full-time local union leave positions – despite the fact that it’s 100% paid for by the union. It maybe tempting to attack the messenger if you don’t like the message but it doesn’t solve real-world problems, increase problem-solving capacity between the parties, or improve the labour relations climate. In fact, it makes things worse.
The employer has tremendous authority to operate the Ontario Shores workplace under the terms of the management rights clause of the collective agreement. In recognition of all that power and authority, it has often been said by arbitrators and human resources specialists that an employer gets the labour relations climate it deserves.
With respect to the Chair’s award on the outstanding Union issues, I, first of all, need to acknowledge and agree with the awarded increases on shift premiums to industry standard levels. I also recognize that there is some improved language awarded related to master schedules and modified work. However, I would have awarded stronger language in both cases.
As the union argued, predictable master schedules are essential for part-time employees, particularly those struggling to balance work across multiple employers and personal circumstances made more difficult under pandemic conditions. And, on the flip side, seniority-based master scheduling provides the employer with a tool to assist part-time employees struggling to meet those challenges. Providing a clear right for employees to choose their preferred line on master schedules by seniority, subject to narrow operational requirement exceptions, would bring a welcome and justified element of predictability to often chaotic hospital worker lives.
On modified work, I would have awarded the right of employees to have a union representative present during any modified work discussions, unless that right was specifically declined by the employee. Employees seeking modified work are often among the most vulnerable people in the bargaining unit and it is not fair or reasonable, in my view, to expect them to advocate on their own behalf in discussions involving a working knowledge of collective agreement provisions as well as human rights rules/guidelines. Having a union representative involved in modified work meetings can make for better outcomes and fewer disputes.
All of Which Is Respectfully Submitted,
Terry Moore, Union Nominee
January 16, 2022