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Corrections and Unified bargaining units see substantial gains

Recent amendments to the Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act, 1993 (CECBA) created a standalone collective agreement for the Correctional bargaining unit with a term commencing January 1, 2018. Subsequent to these changes, the employer and OPSEU engaged in discussions about transferring Unified workers into the Correctional bargaining unit. This resulted in an agreement in principle that must be ratified by the parties.

The negotiations have yielded substantial gains for both Unified and Corrections members. The government was represented by Treasury Board Secretariat; OPSEU was represented by Monte Vieselmeyer, co‑chair of the Ministry Employee/Employer Relations Committee (MERC) for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS); and Mickey Riccardi, acting co-chair of the Central Employee/Employer Relations Committee (CERC).

Below are highlights of the tentative deal reached by the employer and OPSEU:

  • Unified positions in MCSCS adult facilities, Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) youth facilities, MCSCS or MCYS probation and parole offices, and the MCSCS training college will be transferred into the Correctional bargaining unit, effective January 1, 2018.
  • Two-tier short-term sickness pay will be eliminated. Instead, all sick leaves will be paid at 75 per cent of regular salary after the first six days of absence.
  • Dentists and nurse practitioners will be considered legally qualified medical practitioners, with an opportunity to review other designated health care practitioners who could be considered for the purposes of the collective agreement.

Before the CECBA amendments were passed and the agreement in principle was reached, there were questions around employment if the Corrections unit were to be expanded. The tentative agreement provides workers with assurances on employment stability, recruitment, and transfers. Further, the parties have agreed that workers may move between the two bargaining units as part of the normal operation of the collective agreements – in other words, in the same manner that workers currently do.

“We were persistent in achieving a standalone agreement for the Correctional bargaining unit,” said Monte Vieselmeyer. “I’m pleased the employer has also recognized that all members working in correctional institutional and community facilities have common interests.”

The agreement will be placed before the Executive Board for ratification. However, before reaching its decision, the Executive Board wants to hear from affected Unified members through a second consultation. The board’s goal is to ensure that members are provided with as much information as possible before they indicate their preference on the proposed transfer into the Correctional bargaining unit.

“We're making sure all of our Unified members currently working within community offices and correctional facilities have their voice heard again, since this is the second survey,” Vieselmeyer added. “Focusing on the needs of our members is extremely important for us and our Unified members.”

Riccardi described the agreement as a “substantial achievement” for workers.

“We fought hard to get all sick leaves compensated at 75 per cent, and we did it. This is huge for our members. Getting dentists and nurse practitioners designated as health care practitioners is also an important and impressive gain. It means, for example, that they can write notes due to illness or injury. I’m pleased about these improvements.”

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas was quick to underscore the importance of the outcome of the discussions.

“These are big wins for our members, particularly the elimination of the two-tier sick leave pay,” he said. “Unwell employees can now focus on getting better, instead of worrying about whether they’ll get paid.

“I want to extend warm congratulations to our MERC and CERC teams for their diligence and hard work on behalf of members,” he added. “This demonstrates – once again – the impressive gains that can be made when workers unite in a common cause.”

Further information will be forthcoming for affected Unified members who will be voting as part of the consultation on transferring into the Correctional bargaining unit before the Executive Board makes its final decision.