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Liberals conceal ugly concessions (as other wages rise)

The proposed public sector "compensation restraint"  legislation floated on Wednesday by the Liberals is neatly silent on whether the government will impose contract concessions on 500,000 working people.

The government consistently talks of a "compensation freeze" or "compensation restraint".  Obligingly, the media has usually repeated that framing of the issue, as if it were the main bone of contention between the government and the unions.

But actions speak louder than words and it it is quite clear from the terms the government is actually imposing on school board workers (through Bill 115) that contract concessions rather than a contract freeze is what the government has in mind.

While I will leave it to the lawyers to have the final word on the proposed legislation, the government's proposed Respecting Collective Bargaining Act 2012 artfully leaves the framework of the contracts to be imposed undefined.  The "mandates" that will set the terms for those agreements will be set by the Management Board of Cabinet and won't be revealed until after the legislation is passed:

Mandates and criteria 
5.  (1)  The Management Board of Cabinet may issue one or more mandates setting out criteria that may be used to determine whether a collective agreement is consistent with the Province’s goals to eliminate the deficit and protect the delivery of public services.
So they aren't saying exactly what they will impose. This allows the Liberals to keep to their "compensation freeze" message track -- and to encourage some wan hope before the legislation is passed that perhaps it won't be so bad. 

But it also gives the Liberals a free hand to impose some pretty bad deals once the legislation passes the (minority) legislature.   

This when average weekly wages in Ontario are up 3.4%  over the last year (as of August 2012) and public sector union wage settlements are averaging half of that. 

The proposed legislation also indicates that the mandates may vary from one group of workers to another, opening up the possibility for different treatment of one set of workers from another:
Same(2)  Different mandates may be issued with respect to different sectors, classes of employers or particular employers, classes of employees and the corresponding bargaining organizations.

Finally, the proposed legislation opens up the possibility that some agreements already signed may meet the criteria that will be established in the mandate.

Criteria(3)  The criteria may address matters of compensation and service delivery and such other matters as the Management Board of Cabinet considers appropriate.
Transition(4)  Without limiting the generality of subsection (3), the criteria may have effect with respect to a period before the date on which this subsection comes into force, if a collective agreement to which the mandate applies has effect before that date.
Will an already signed agreement meet the Liberals' mandate?  That is bound to concern some.

Vagueness has always been a main play by the Liberals, and so it continues here.


  1. Meanwhile Lib posters federally are suggesting the poster child Justin will save the day - nay, it's another pretend Liberal to the rescue who will do the switch-a-roo.


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