Finance minister takes harsher line in collective bargaining

The Ontario minister of finance, Dwight Duncan, has released a troubling statement concerning collective bargaining in the broader public sector, including hospitals. 

The statement proposes a compensation freeze (including benefits) for new collective agreements.  Even progress through an established wage grid "must be fully offset from within the total compensation package."  If a collective agreement is for more than two years, the minister says the period beyond two years must also have a compensation freeze.

While in the past, the government had proposed a two year freeze, there is now no official end to the compensation freeze. This is a much harsher line than the government has taken (and accepted in bargaining) up until now.

If the minister doesn't get his way, legislation is threatened. Moreover, given the job they have done on the economy, it is an open question whether the Liberals will continue to make even more concession demands in the future.

The minister has also written to all broader public sector employers.  An excerpt is below, and a link leading to the various relevant documents is here.

"Ontario is expecting its bargaining partners to meet the following criteria:

"For two years, collective agreements should not allow for increases in compensation.  This includes wages, performance pay and benefits.  Any movement through an established grid must be fully offset from within the total compensation package.  Should parties wish to enter contracts of more than two years, those contracts should contain no increases in compensation during the additional period."

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