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Explanatory Document – OPS Bargaining Employer Opening Proposals

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Table of Contents

The OPS Employer Opening Proposals: Slash, cut, eliminate

On November 20, 2014, the employer tabled their opening proposals at the Central/Unified and Corrections bargaining tables.

Here’s what’s at stake:

Central/Unified Table

Article UN16 – Salary

The employer has proposed a wage freeze for the first two years of the agreement, followed by another two-year freeze unless money comes out of the contract somewhere else.

In other words, you would have to pay for your own wage increase, for a net gain of ZERO.

You have already been under a wage freeze for two years. That will add up to six years of zeroes. Realistically, the OPS has not kept up with the rate of inflation for 23 years. If you had kept up, your current wages would be seven per cent higher or an additional $3,500 a year for someone earning $50,000.

The price of gas, groceries, hydro, and other necessities rises every year. And you fall further behind.

Article UN16 – New Start Rate/Salary Grid Restructuring

The employer has tabled a new start rate and a salary grid restructuring to 12 annual steps including a new entry level step for all employees at 5 per cent below the current minimum. What does this mean to you?

In the last contract the employer demanded a 3 per cent lower start rate for new hires. They also deemed you a “new hire” if you won a competition to a different position. Many employees actually lost money even though they were not a “new hire.”

Now they want starting pay to be another 5 per cent lower. This reduction affects all categories.

In addition, the employer is proposing a restructuring of wages to a 12-step grid. This means that it will take employees 11 years to reach the same top level that now you reach in four or five. This is just a very clandestine way for the employer to take more money out of your pocket.

The employer stated at the table “Even a poorly-paid job is better than no job and that young workers should be happy to have a job”.

That perfectly sums up your employer’s attitude this round.

Articles 42, 44, 70 AND 71 – Long Term Income Protection/Short Term Sickness Plan

The employer has tabled a complete restructure to Long Term Income Protection (LTIP) and Short Term Sickness Plan (STSP). You will get less, pay more, and get thrown out the door quicker if you are on LTIP.

Effective January 1, 2016, LTIP benefits to be increased to 70 per cent from 66 2/3. Unfortunately, that would be vastly offset by:

  • Employees have to pay the employee portion of pension contributions including when supplementing a WSIB award (right now the employer pays the pension contribution which is between 9.4-11 per cent)
  • Pension contributions and pension credits to be based on LTIP earnings, meaning your monthly pension amount would be less as it would be based on 70 per cent instead of full salary
  • LTIP benefits and coverage cease when an employee reaches their earliest unreduced pension (i.e. Factor 90, 60/20 and age sixty-five (65). There is no mandatory retirement age in the province of Ontario yet they are forcing their employees to retire early if they have reached one of the retirement factors. It was this Ontario Government that introduced the elimination of mandatory retirement, but this same government that will force you out the door.
  • LTIP benefits to be calculated at the date of disability. If there are any improvements in LTIP entitlements during the term of the collective agreement, your LTIP entitlements will not change – you are stuck in time.
  • LTIP qualifying period moved up to 17 weeks from 26 weeks with a corresponding adjustment to STSP credits available after the initial six days from 120 to 79. This forces you into LTIP quicker. With all the changes they want to make to LTIP, this puts you at a disadvantage and puts more stress on you when you're already stressed from dealing with an illness or injury.

Therefore, If LTIP denies your claim, you are without income much faster than the old method. If you have surgery, you must deal with LTIP faster than concentrating on getting better under the current STSP. There will be a reduction of your pension credits. There will be a reduction of your STSP credits.

And then, you will also be subject to a mandatory rehabilitation plan not necessarily controlled by your primary physician. Based on the language negotiated at the AMAPCEO table, the rehab plans would be controlled by an outside third party, such as the insurance carrier, who knows nothing about your work and cares even less.

NOTE: The Employer’s proposal references Article 78 instead of 71. Article 78 is about Termination Pay for Regular Part-time employees and has nothing to do with the Short Term Sickness Plan.

Articles 41 AND 69 – Workplace Safety and Insurance Board

Under the proposal, you will lose money if you suffer from a workplace injury or occupational disease in which you are receiving WSIB benefits. The employer wants to reduce your pay from 100 per cent to 85 per cent for the first sixty-five (65) days following a workplace injury or occupational disease.

The employer also wants to:

  • Eliminate the ability to accrue vacation credits while you are in receipt of a WSIB loss of earnings award, a penalty for being injured.
  • Eliminate the ability to use accumulated credits to top up a WSIB loss of earnings award.

The Ontario Government has mandatory laws to protect injured workers in the province. However the same Employer wants to penalize their workers if you are injured and file a WSIB claim. 

Articles 39.2 AND 67.2.1 – Supplementary Health and Hospital

Your bargaining team does not have specific details on the employer’s proposal of a “tiered drug formulary.” However, we suspect it could be any or all of the following;

  • The exclusion of more drugs
  • Altering the rates of coverage for certain drugs
  • Include a mandatory catastrophic drug plan (similar to the AMAPCEO plan)

The catastrophic drug plan would have all members pay 100 per cent of the premiums. However, the plan would only provide benefit to the small portion of the membership that is unfortunate enough to have to use it. Our current plan has no threshold at the top end to cut off access like a catastrophic plan would. This is shifting costs of the benefit from the employer to the employee.

Beyond paying new premiums, the proposal would eliminate the $3.00 deductible, and, instead, you would have to pay for the drug dispensing fees for each prescription. Here’s an example from a Sept. 2013 article found in Chatelaine:

Shopper’s Drug Mart – $11.99 per prescription

Rexall – $11.99 per prescription

Loblaw’s Pharmacy – $10.49 per prescription

The net result: You will pay more for this benefit. You will pay for the premiums and the additional costs of the drug dispensing fees.

Articles 53 AND 78 – Termination Payments

The proposal would limit the accumulation of termination payments as of January 1st, 2015 upon retirement. The proposal also seeks to make payments at the 2015 rate of pay.

Currently, employees who were hired between April 1, 1978 and January 1, 2013 accrue 1 week of pay for every year of service to a maximum of 26 weeks if they have more than five years’ service upon retirement.

The limitation to pay out at the 2015 rate would significantly reduce the value of the benefit over time. 

In the last contract they came after new employees by eliminating their ability to accrue termination pay. Now, they want to cap all employees at 2015 rates. This is not just the accrual, but the actual value in dollars. Any wage increases, promotions, or adjustments would not be captured between 2015 and your retirement.

Note: The Employer’s proposal references Article 52 instead of 53. Article 52 is about Entitlement on Death and has nothing to do with Termination Payments.

Articles 7 – Pay Administration

Currently, under Article 7.2.1, an employee can still progress through their old salary grid if they are reclassified to a new lower salary grid. Under the employer’s proposal, they want to eliminate that ability.

Articles 20 – Job Security

Employees who are assigned through targeted direct assignment into a position with a lower maximum salary than their previous position will be entitled to red-circling for the balance of the notice period – in line with the language of the previous collective agreement.

If you have two months left on your surplus notice, you will be red-circled. After the two months, you will be brought down to the lower salary.

However, the employer now wants to create a “qualification period” of six months where a manager can assess the ability of an employee to meet the requirements of the job. If the receiving manager doesn't like you, you're out.

When you were first hired with the Ontario Government, you did your probationary period.  You should not have to do it again.

Article 6 – Posting and Filling of Vacancies or New Positions

The Employer has proposed that effective January 1, 2015 they will:

a)Limit the number of reference and personnel file checks required to only those candidates who are being considered for a job offer, and

b)Permit employees to apply to competitions when an employee resides outside of the geographic area of search provided they waive entitlement to relocation expenses, and

c)Notify the Local Union President when a candidate is hired from a previous competition at the earliest opportunity instead of (10) days in advance.

What does this mean to you?

a) The Employer wants to circumvent interviewees’ right to have their personnel file considered as part of the competition process as determined by Arbitrator Samuel in MacLellan and DeGrandis (GSB # 506/81) in that “all the members of a selection committee should review the personnel files of all the applicants”. This undermines the process by allowing the Employer to easily disregard previous employment experience in the OPS and give no consideration to any experience you may have in the actual job itself.

b) The Relocation Expense Directive (revised: April 01, 2014) permits regular employees who meet the eligibility criteria are eligible for payment and/or reimbursement of relocation expenses as set out in this section [Section 8.0 – Permanent Relocation]. New employees are not automatically eligible for payment and/or reimbursement of relocation expenses under the relocation provisions set out in the above section. The employer now wants to force employees to waive their right of relocation simply to be considered for a job outside of the geographic area of search. This is a significant benefit to those who are relocating since all incurred fees by the employee will no longer be borne by the employer (i.e. transportation and moving expenses).

c) Your Local President is critical to the functioning of your workplace. Information sharing and advance notice is required to ensure the position has cleared surplus, health redeployment, and the position has been filled in accordance with the Collective Agreement through a fair and accessible job competition. The proposed change would eliminate any ability for the Union to ensure your rights are upheld. The Employer will interpret “earliest opportunity” to be a few days or perhaps hours in advance of a new employee arriving. This limits and restrains any opportunity by the Union to ensure the next successful candidate is in fact placed into the vacant position.

Article 18 – Seniority (Length of Continuous Service)

The employer has proposed to extend the probationary period of new employees from nine months to 12 months. This means, as a new employee, you:

  • Will not gain any continuous service credits for one full year
  • Will not be able to get a merit increase for a further three-month period
  • Will not be able to grieve if you are terminated or released in your probationary period under Article 22.8.1 – Dismissal
  • Will have to work longer before you can retire

The OPS already has a longer probationary period than most workplaces. The average period is 3 – 6 months.

Articles 31A AND UN14 – Overtime

The employer has proposed that effective January 1, 2015, they will revise the overtime provisions for Regular Part-Time and irregularly scheduled Fixed-Term Employees so that overtime is earned only when the corresponding full-time hours per week (36.25 or 40, as applicable) are exceeded.

What does this mean to you?

Members in this group are compensated for overtime when they exceed their corresponding daily hours of work (7.25 or 8.00, as applicable). The employer wants to change this provision to make it more difficult for overtime payments to occur and will systemically limit any opportunity for those employee groups to exceed their weekly hours. Being compensated for overtime in excess of your daily hours is a benefit for the irregular scheduling and part-time work this group endures. This cost saving measure is being proposed on the backs of one of the most vulnerable groups in the OPSEU bargaining unit.

Article 31A.15 – Conversion of Fixed-Term Positions to Positions in the Regular Service

The employer is proposing that we go back to old language with respect to conversions for fixed-term employees. They want to again lengthen the conversion time from 18 months to 24 months; this is a reversal of a gain from the 2002 strike. It leaves those most vulnerable in the irregular service to be subjected to an additional 6 months of lower protection and job security benefits. The employer only wants to exercise this provision when there is no home incumbent that could result in irregular employees being stuck in positions with no opportunity for conversion for more than four years.

Members sacrificed eight weeks on a picket line for improvements that included this one. We should be prepared to fight to protect it.

Article 32.8 – Insured Benefits Plans

Effective April 1, 2015, the employer wants to amend provisions so that seasonal employees will pay for benefits coverage by paying premiums directly to the insurance carrier. This places the administrative burden of dealing with the insurance carriers on the employee, instead of with the employer where it belongs.

New Appendix – Grievance

The employer wants to expand the current CERC File Review Memorandum of Agreement to include all grievances that involve multiple Ministries and incorporate the Memorandum of Agreement into the Collective Agreement. 

Here’s what that means:

The employer wants to expand the terms of the memorandum of agreement to allow the CERC to deal with all grievances that have the same issue.  This can cause a great delay in the grievance process and the member could wait longer for a resolution.

The CERC Memorandum of Agreement only includes “Policy Grievances” and at this time it seems to be working. Allowing for similar grievances filed by Ministries being sent to the CERC disenfranchises the ability for Ministries to problem solve around their own issues which could result in a quicker resolution.

For example: six Ministries have a lot of overtime grievances. Conceivably, all of these grievances could be lumped into one grievance. This would delay every grievance that the employer feels should be lumped together and only be discussed at CERC.

Article UN5 – Shift Schedules

The employer wants to reduce the notification period for the changing of schedules from 96 hours to 24 hours. This is further to a reduction from 120 hours to 96 in the last contract.

In other words, the employer wants to no longer penalize itself for failing to manage properly. In exchange, they get to disrupt your life and plans with just 24 hours’ notice.

Appendices

Appendix 40 – Employment Stability

Appendix 40 allows for MERCs to address the transition of employees who will be directly impacted by transformations and transfers when there are multiple layoffs and surplus notices will be given. The Employer wants to delete this Appendix.

The removal of this appendix would mean that your rights as they relate to temporary vacancies, targeted direct assignment, variable surplus opportunities, recruitment supports, career supports, disputes and resolutions would be substantially diminished with no other forum or overseer to monitor these rights when they affect more than 50 employees.

This Appendix is now voluntary; it certainly doesn’t hurt to leave it in. Since we don’t know what the future holds, we need to leave this in the agreement to allow Ministries to deal with large scale surplussing.

Appendix 46 – Transition Exit Initiative

This Appendix allows for all regular, regular part-time and flexible part-time employees to apply for a Transition Exit Initiative (TEI). This was renewed at the AMAPCEO bargaining table. Yet our employer wants to eliminate it.

This is an important issue to our membership that not only helps individual employees but the employer as well.  Removing this appendix makes no sense.

Resolution of Disputes

Discussion – Service Ontario

The Employer is seeking to discuss working arrangements for ServiceOntario employees with a view to “increasing flexibility around a number of items including, but not limited to scheduling and work location.”

Whenever the employer seeks for more “flexibility”, it almost never results in making your working life easier. 

There is the potential in this proposal to make the work of ServiceOntario employees even more precarious. At any time the employer could assign you to work a morning in one location and the afternoon in another location with travel at your own cost.

This proposal was not clear on which employees would be affected: full-time, regular part-time, flexible part-time or ad-hoc employees.

This is not a trend we want to allow to begin.

Estoppel Letters

Estoppel Letter #1 – OPSEU Article 44.10 Short Term Sickness Plan

The employer will no longer pay for a doctor's note under Article 44.10 even if they are requesting them. Under the Attendance Support Management Program (ASMP), employees will require many more doctors’ notes. You will be responsible for the cost.

Estoppel Letter #2 – Standardized Job Description

The Employer notified the Union on November 20, 2014, that:

“…the Employer’s intention to engage in a review of job descriptions in the OPSEU bargaining unit with a view to creating standardized job descriptions.” And, “A standardization of job descriptions across the organization would reduce the number of re-evaluations/re-classifications in the future, the work associated with creating new job descriptions, and ultimately facilitate the movement of employees across the organization”.

What does this mean?

Generic job descriptions will become the new normal for members in our bargaining unit. This initiative could de-skill the workforce and lower classifications. This permits additional duties, and “packages” employee groups to be moved outside of the bargaining unit or even worse, privatized outside the public service. The employer has already set their priority to do this in I&IT. This will also include expanding one job description to encompass the duties ordinarily comprised in 3-4 jobs.

We have seen this negatively impact employees in the Ministry of the Attorney General. The employer continues to take full advantage by reassigning employees to multiple job functions that has created nothing short of chaos in the work schedules of these employees.

Estoppel Letter #3 – Continuation of payments on LTIP

In past practices, the employer continued to pay employees' benefits for three months when LTIP entitlements ceased. The employer will cease this practice. Again this shows that the Employer doesn't care about their own employees, especially during such a vulnerable time.

Estoppel Letter #4 – Posting and Filling of Vacancies

The Employer notified the Union on November 20, 2014, that:

“The Employer is committed to a recruitment process that attracts the best suited candidate to positions and evaluates candidates using objective and fair criteria. In order to ensure that the recruitment process is as effective as possible, the Employer intends to exercise its rights under the collective agreement to utilize pre-interview testing, where deemed necessary, as a means of screening candidates for job competitions.”

What does this mean?

The employer wants to complicate the competition process by holding pre-interview screening with applicants. This process provides the employer with a forum to reasonably exclude applicants strictly based on their pre-interview screening results and not consider them further in the process. The employer has not committed that this will be an internal process that is conducted by hiring managers. This undermines any ability to achieve the employer’s true intention of attracting the best suited candidate to positions.

Estoppel Letter #5 – Schedule A Overtime

The employer has provided a letter indicating that they will enforce the provision that overtime requires prior approval.

If you are on Schedule A, you will need to call management in the middle of the night, cue up outside their office and get permission. Once again managers fail to manage…and we pay the price.

Estoppel Letter #6 – Attendance Support and Management Program

The Employer proposed that they are committed to effective and efficient management of employee attendance that balances the organization’s need to maximize workforce productivity with an employees need for support when absent due to illness or injury.

They have put us on notice that the ASMP will become OPS-wide effective April 1, 2015

This program is very intrusive and highly punitive to members with disabilities and serious health conditions. What this program will do, as we have already seen in the Correctional Bargaining Unit, is give the employer the ability to force employees who are sick or injured out the door.

Corrections Bargaining Unit

The normal practice between the parties is NOT to table any monetary issues during the initial proposals. Monetary proposals usually get tabled after non-monetary issues are addressed.

Despite the Union not tabling any monetary issues in their initial proposal, the employer included monetary concessions in their initial proposals.

It’s clear that the Employer has no intention of addressing YOUR DEMANDS and the Employer’s bargaining tactics are, in essence, a “Declaration of War” on the Corrections Bargaining Unit.

Article COR17 – Salary

No salary adjustment in the first two years of the Collective Agreement and no salary adjustments for the remainder of the term of the Collective Agreement unless offset by savings elsewhere.

NOTE: Amendments to the existing grids and the incorporation of a new lower minimum step is a Central matter and will be dealt with at the Central Table.

What does this mean?

All concessions proposed are takeaways. There is NO general wage increase for another two years.

In addition, any wage increases in a possible third or fourth year, must be “self-funded” by way of further cuts to member Benefits and shift premium payments. YOU are funding your own raise!

During the last round of bargaining the employer was successful introducing a new lower minimum wage grid step of three per cent below the start rate. In this round of bargaining, the employer is proposing an additional five per cent lower minimum step.

The Employer’s proposal for a new twelve-step grid system will double the amount of time for members to reach the top of the grid.

Bottom line: Your pay starts lower, and stays lower, longer.

Article COR6 – Shift Premium

The employer proposes to eliminate the night shift premium and redirect the funds into base rate and pensionable earnings.

What does this mean?

Again, this proposal would force members to fund their own wages for a net gain of zero. Members would also see a loss and disincentive to working night shifts. This could potentially lead to the employer seeking the elimination of the afternoon shift premium in this round or in the future.

Appendix COR3 – Probation Officers’ Allowance

Effective January 1, 2016, the employer wants to eliminate the entitlement for Probation Officers to earn Probation Officer Allowance days and increase vacation entitlements for Probation Officers by a corresponding amount. All unused POA days would be eliminated by December 31, 2016.

What does this mean?

PPOs are currently entitled to seven POA Days (50.75 hrs.) and are able to apply for additional POA Days to compensate for extra time worked over and above this. Due to growing workload demands, PPOs are, in fact, applying for and are receiving additional POA Days over and above the current allotment of seven. The employer's current proposal would cap compensation for overtime worked by POs and PPOs at seven days.

Further, the employer proposal is not clear whether the conversion of POA days to vacation entitlement is a one-time offer on January 1, 2016 or if it will carry on beyond 2016 and replace POA days going forward. The employer’s proposal goes on to say that all unused POA days will be eliminated after December 31, 2016.

If the vacation entitlement does continue on, this proposal would create a two-tiered vacation entitlement system whereby POs would earn vacation at a higher rate than others within the Corrections Division.

Article COR5 – Shift Schedules

Shorten the requirement for notice of change in schedule from 96 hours in advance of the starting times of the shift originally scheduled to 24 hours’ notice.

What does this mean?

During the last round of bargaining, the shift schedule change notice was reduced from 120 hours to 96 hours. Reducing the current 96 hours’ notice to 24 hours’ notice would turn the entire classified membership of the Corrections bargaining unit into “de facto” fixed-term employees. This would inevitably lead to further abuses of shift scheduling.

Article COR15 – Overtime for RPT

Effective January 1, 2015, the employer wants to revise the overtime provisions for Regular Part-Time Employees so that overtime is earned only when the corresponding full-time hours per week (36.25 or 40, as applicable) are exceeded. Note: Amendments to fixed term overtime is a Central matter and will be dealt with at the Central Table.

What does this mean?

As a result of recent GSB decision (GSB#2010-3062), the employer SHOULD be prevented from forcing FXT and RPT members from working hours in excess of their scheduled shifts at straight time before their 36 ¼ or 40 hours have been reached. The employer’s proposal amounts to a reprisal for the union’s success at the Grievance Settlement Board.

Appendix COR5 – Classification Adjustments

The employer wants to remove the PO3 classification from the collective agreement.

What does this mean?

The employer created a PO3 classification during the 1999 round of bargaining that it never had any intentions of filling in a fair and equitable manner. POs have been inappropriately classified for years.

Plain and simple, there is no ability for members to ever progress beyond the PO2 salary range.

Appendix COR7 – Provincial Overtime Protocol

The employer wants to eliminate the requirement in the MCSCS Provincial Overtime Protocol to wait five minutes after leaving a message or a page for an available overtime opportunity. They also want to confirm the commitment in MCYS to eliminate the requirement to wait five minutes after leaving a message or a page for an available overtime opportunity. In addition, they want to change the Active Hiring Period from 3 days to 7 days.

What does this mean?

This proposal means there will be a rush to the bottom of the overtime availability list. This circumvents the protocol or the need to even have a protocol and brings back a return to the days of favouritism.  Essentially, this proposal undoes a decade’s worth of work the union has done in creating a transparent and equitable overtime system.

Appendix COR8 – Fixed Term Rollovers (CO & YSO)

The employer wants to maintain the rollover process while removing the previous commitment to a specific number of rollovers.

What does this mean?

Depending on the language the employer tables there could be limits or barriers to the rollover process.

The employer has proposed changing the conversion language for FXTs from eighteen (18) months to twenty-four (24) months in order to qualify.

Appendix COR24 – Staffing Realignments (PO & PPO)

The employer wants to amend Appendix COR 24 to reflect the parties’ commitment to allow lateral transfers and job trades between MCSCS and MCYS POs and PPOs.

What does this mean?

Depending on the language the employer tables this would allow for lateral/job trades to occur as currently negotiated at the MERC level.

Memorandum of Agreement – Local Mediation-Arbitration Protocol and Improving & Maintaining Local Labour Relations

The employer wants to eliminate the Correctional Officer Bargaining Unit Scheduling Assistant (COBUSA) positions in all MCSCS facilities.

What does this mean?

The COBUSA position does all scheduling including FXT hours and hires for all overtime. This would result in the loss of bargaining unit positions which have helped the employer reduce grievances in the workplace, promote transparency and resolve issues before they became grievances. This will negatively impact the HPRO agreement across the province.

Why would the employer want to eliminate a program that works?

Appendices, Letters and Memoranda of Agreement

The employer proposes deleting the following appendices, letters and memoranda of agreement:

  • Appendix COR 12 – Probation Officer Workload
  • Appendix COR 15 – Provincial Staffing Levels
  •  Appendix COR 18 – Health and Productivity Program
  • Appendix COR 21 – Offender Transportation Sub-committee
  • Appendix COR 23 – Peer Mentorship Program
  • Appendix COR 28 – Use of Force Sub-committee
  • Appendix COR 29 – Institutional/Facility Security Teams
  • Appendix COR 31 – Safety Equipment and Protective Clothing for PO and PPO

What does this mean?

These articles were intended to ensure safe and healthy working conditions in our facilities, offices and institutions. Removal of these appendices would allow the employer to “cop out” and “dodge” their responsibilities in agreements made in all these areas. Some of these Appendices are just starting up and have not fulfilled their mandates.

Related: OPS Bargaining 2014 Index Page