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Employer’s opening statement

Employer’s opening statement

We the North
We the North
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As noted in the 2017 Budget, the government will continue to take a balanced approach to managing compensation. This approach will recognize the need to maintain a stable, flexible and high-performing public-sector workforce that supports the government’s transformational priorities and at the same time ensures that public services continue to remain affordable.

Four-year extension agreements were reached and ratified with the OPSEU Unified and AMAPCEO Bargaining Units. These agreements include modest wage increases that are fair and reasonable to employees and align with current economic and labour market trends.

The Employer proposes monetary wage terms consistent with these ratified agreements, and no additional increases for the term of the collective agreement unless offset elsewhere.

Over the past seven years, the government has been successful in moderating wage growth across the provincial public sector. Through a deliberate approach to managing compensation, the government met its fiscal commitments without compromising the quality of critical public services.

Wage outcomes in the provincial public sector continue to track below the municipal, federal and private sectors in Ontario.

Since the 2016 Budget, the government has reached a number of outcomes that are consistent with the fiscal plan:

  • The government received an arbitration decision for the Ontario Provincial Police Association in October, 2016, which provided outcomes below police-sector norms.
  • The government also reached a four-year agreement with the Professional Engineers Government of Ontario (PEGO) in which wage increases were offset through changes to benefits and termination pay.
  • In February, the government and the Ontario Medical Association took steps to re-initiate negotiations of the Physician Services Agreement, beginning with negotiations of a process for binding interest arbitration. Re-engagement will ensure that the government maintains a strong and productive relationship with physicians and will help enhance access, reduce wait times and improve the overall patient experience.
  • The government successfully negotiated two-year contracts in the education sector, which are set to expire in August 2019, and will continue to help achieve positive results for students and those who work in the sector. The contracts will help build upon the gains made in Ontario’s publicly funded education system. These gains include the highest graduation rate in the province’s history, strong literacy results, and students who are equipped with the skills and knowledge they need today for tomorrow’s rapidly changing world.

The government will continue to take a balanced approach to managing compensation. This approach will recognize the need to maintain a stable, flexible and high-performing public-sector workforce that supports the government’s transformational priorities and at the same time ensures that public services continue to remain affordable.

Over the upcoming year, negotiations will be undertaken within key areas of the public and broader public service, including health care and social services.

Ontario’s public-sector labour relations framework will focus on maintaining and enhancing the positive and productive working relationships with its public-sector partners and bargaining agents.

Going forward, the government will focus on addressing longer-term workforce challenges that affect the sustainability of public services. Sector- and service-wide transformation opportunities will underpin the development of a dynamic and skilled public-sector workforce that is best positioned to meet the needs of Ontarians, now and in the future. To achieve this goal, the government is committed to delivering collective bargaining outcomes across all key areas of the public and broader public service that align with the current public-sector wage trend and support the Province’s transformation objectives.

While the economy is improving and the Government of Ontario delivered on its commitment to balance the budget by 2017-18, there are still significant risks to the fiscal plan, which continue to impact the Government’s ability to maintain a balanced budget.

The Government of Ontario's economic strategy for Ontario is predicated on controlled spending, investment in infrastructure and the management of provincial debt. All elements need to work in concert to ensure that Ontario's economy continues to grow.

While the Government of Ontario recently began easing away from its strict "net zero" bargaining approach, the Government of Ontario remains committed to implementing fiscal restraint. This includes ensuring current modest public sector wage trends continue, with outcomes that are consistent with the fiscal plan.

  • As part of the collective agreement reached with OPSEU’s Correctional bargaining unit on January 9, 2016, the government committed to pursuing legislative changes to the Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act, 1993 (CECBA), to allow the parties to negotiate a future standalone collective agreement for the Correctional bargaining unit.
  • These legislative changes were introduced on November 16, 2016, as part of Bill 70, Building Ontario Up for Everyone Act (Budget Measures), 2016 and received Royal Assent on December 8, 2016.
  • The legislative changes include providing binding interest arbitration as the dispute resolution mechanism rather than the right to strike in the event of a collective bargaining impasse.
  • The legislative changes also create a standalone collective agreement for the Correctional bargaining unit with a term commencing January 1, 2018.
  • The Employer respects and values the critical services performed by our Correctional bargaining unit employees. Correctional employees work hard every day in our communities to keep us safe and we acknowledge the difficult challenges they face.
  • The government  recognizes the critical importance of avoiding labour disruptions by the Correctional bargaining unit, while providing a meaningful alternative to the right-to-strike.
  • We look forward to building on our renewed, productive relationship and ensuring the certainty of critical Correctional services in Ontario
  • We also look forward to productive bargaining discussions.