11/9/11

Hospitals propose labour relations changes


The Ontario Hospital Association has released  a report entitled, OHA Position Statement on Funding and Capacity Planning for Ontario’s Health System and Hospitals.  After discussing various reforms in health care delivery, the seventh and final point deals with "options for addressing labour costs".

The OHA argues that there "are limited options available for meeting very ambitious expenditure reduction targets in a compressed period of time".  To maintain service levels "consideration will have to be given to finding ways to restrain the growth in the prices paid for labour".

The OHA argues that this area "will need to be explored particularly if there is little choice in making rapid and substantial funding cuts".  To their credit, the OHA recognizes that such changes "may not create long term or lasting savings" but states that other changes may not solve immediate funding pressures.  "Given the very high level of efficiency at which hospitals are currently performing, labour cost restraints will be necessary throughout all health care sectors".

So what do they want?   They remain vague but do call for three items.

The OHA calls for "changes to the Hospital Labour Disputes Arbitration Act to further guide arbitrators’ decisions."  What exactly they mean, they don't say, but presumably they want changes that will bias interest arbitrator decisions in favour of the health car employers, so that collective agreements are more to their liking (and less to the employees').  Mike Harris tried a similar trick in the 1990s when he was premier, but came to his senses a few years later.

As in the past, the OHA recommends the creation of "a designated Employer Bargaining Agency for health
services employers to strengthen the bargaining process."    This is an old recommendation from the OHA, but one which could see far reaching changes in bargaining, and possibly, bargaining unit structure in Ontario health care.

Finally, they recommend an amendment "to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act to permit hospitals to elect coverage under Schedule II of the Act (i.e. self insurance) to reduce costs and provide an incentive for workplace safety.

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