10/5/11

The good, the bad, and the ugly: three approaches to bargaining

In the past week the leaders of the three largest Ontario parties have all weighed in on collective bargaining in the public sector. Here's the summary (with a little commentary):

  • Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty called for medical doctors to accept a 'pay' freeze for their contract -- although it does not even expire until March . A crafty move, McGunity is simply reiterating his public sector wage policy, but without specifically attacking any of his supporters in the mainstream labour movement. Moreover, there may be a lot more in a deal with the doctors than a simple freeze to their fee schedule, even if that's what gets talked about in the media releases.
  • New Democrat Andrea Horwath defended collective bargaining, responding to McGuinty's comments on the doctors by saying she was surprised the Liberals would begin contract talks in such a way. ``We know that that's a bad way to start negotiations and it's a way that doesn't work.I think we need to have an honest process of negotiations, one that doesn't necessarily say that the front line people -- the nurses, the doctors, the home-care workers -- are the ones that should be taking the financial hit.''
  • Progressive Conservative Tim Hudak also went on the offensive, raising the idea of imposing or legislating a public sector wage freeze as a "last resort". Hudak claimed: "The conventional wisdom holds that every year we must increase the pay of public-sector workers faster than the wages of the private sector workers that pay for them." In fact private sector settlements have been higher than public sector settlement this year and last. Moreover, even a conservative commentator suggests that "Mr. Hudak's talk of negotiating with the unions may be just a smokescreen, so that the government does not fall foul of a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that found British Columbia had violated the Charter by not talking to health unions before it ripped up their collective agreement."

You can decide which is the good, the bad, or the ugly.

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