Hudak steps up attack on interest arbitration for essential service workers

Below is a report from the Ottawa Citizen on what Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak told them about "interest arbitration" -- the system used by public sector employers and unionized essential service workers (like hospital workers, firefighters, and police) to settle contract disputes.  Essential service workers are required to settle contract disputes through interest arbitration and are forbidden  from striking by law.

At a meeting this week with the Ottawa Citizen's editorial board, Hudak called the province's arbitration system badly broken.  He said arbitrators do not respect the ability of taxpayers to afford the settlements they hand down, even though the law calls upon them to do just that.

Hudak accused the premier of ducking the issue, a key factor driving municipal tax hikes.

"Dalton McGuinty will look the other way: he doesn't have the courage to take it on. I do," Hudak told the Citizen. "I can and I will fix the broken arbitration system and give some relief to municipalities and to taxpayers."

If elected premier, Hudak said he will make local ability to pay a major factor in the design of settlement awards and will ensure that arbitrators issue written reasons for their decisions.

Dalton McGuinty told the Association of Municipalities of Ontario that the arbitration system does not need to be amended in favour of local governments. "Tipping the balance in favour of employers would lead to service disruptions and threats to public safety in the long run. That may not stop my opposition from going there; they may even welcome conflict. But we're not going there."

Christine Blizzard, noting the declining lead of the PCs in recent polls suggests that the Tories focus on "public sector entitlement," claiming (falsely) that the government "has caved in to just about every major public sector union and handed out massive pay hikes." (Calling this a false claim is perhaps too nice: it's bad reporting  -- on easily obtainable facts.)

Although not discussed in the Citizen story, the New Democrats  have long supported free collective bargaining and a balanced interest arbitration system for essential service workers.  OCHU/CUPE successfully stopped changes by the last Progressive Conservative government to bias interest arbitration towards employers, -- but only after a four year campaign.

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