Hospital Professionals

Hospital Professionals At The Table, Issue 5, September 19, 2014


Bargaining news for members of OPSEU’s Hospital Professional Division: Issue 5

Central Award Issued – 1.4% and 1.4%

A Board chaired by Robert Herman has issued its decision on our Central provisions for the term April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2016. The award was fairly minimal, but we are pleased with what is in the award and also pleased that none of the Hospitals’ concessions succeeded. Also not awarded were the Union’s job security proposals, which is extremely disappointing.

What is in the award

Effective April 1, 2014 wages will increase by 1.4 per cent and effective April 1, 2015, wages will increase by another 1.4 per cent. Retroactivity should be paid in accordance with Article 33 of our Central contract.

What is also in the award is another explicit acknowledgement from an interest arbitrator that ONA is the most appropriate comparator for OPSEU HPD members. Arbitrator Herman takes special note of the parties’ bargaining history which shows a clear and consistent pattern of OPSEU mirroring ONA wage increases. We’re really pleased that this is stated in the strongest possible terms and hope this makes future rounds of bargaining easier for our Central team.

The only other thing that was awarded was some process language on short shifts. Getting short shifts has been a top priority for the Hospitals for the last three rounds. In previous rounds, hospitals sought the unilateral right to schedule short shifts because, they argued, local bargaining units are not cooperative nor do they engage in meaningful discussion under the current Article 29.02. Arbitrators have never agreed to give hospitals the unilateral right to alter our hours of work. In this round, the Hospitals changed their tactic. They asked the Board to award language that ensured an agreement on short shifts would not be “unreasonably denied.” This would have been an unfortunate development if it had been awarded as it would have led to intimidation by Employers and an overwhelming number of grievances. Thankfully, the Board rejected this proposal.

However, the Board did conclude that this was an issue that could benefit from meaningful dialogue and the language it awarded attempts to ensure that this happens. The Board is only directing that a meaningful discussion occur and that both of the local parties put their positions and rationale in writing. The final decision still rests with the local. We don’t see this as a win for the Employer but we do need to be smart about how we manage this new process – both locally and centrally. This is an important issue that your bargaining team wants to give you detailed direction and guidance on, so watch for a special topic bargaining bulletin on this subject shortly.

Agreed Issues Summary

The parties agreed to some minor improvements and housekeeping changes. These are summarized below. The agreed issues are effective the date of the award.

  • Article 6.07 – new article allows employees who are not members of a professional college under the RHPA the right to file a workload alert form.
  • Article 11: We have reformatted the entire layoff and recall article to provide numbering for all paragraphs and a more logical sequencing of provisions. There is no substantive change to any of the language.
  • Article 11.01: the parties agreed to add to the definition of long-term layoff the inclusion of a permanent reduction of hours of a full-time employee.
  • Article 11.02: notification to the affected employee and the union in the event of a reduction of a service on a short-term basis that may lead to a short-term layoff.
  • Article 17.03 – changing the word “call-in” to “call-back”.
  • Amended Letter of Understanding – Additional Issues Appropriate for Local Bargaining – the parties agreed that the matter of backfilling absences is an appropriate topic for discussion at the local level.
  • Wage Appendix – agreement to incorporate the individual job titles of the Technician classifications within the appropriate wage grid rather than at the bottom of the page.

What was not in the award

There are reasons to be both happy and disappointed by what is not in the award. What is unfortunately missing is all the Union’s job security proposals. The Union asked for:

  • Prohibition of (or improvement to) Contracting Out language
  • Improved Work of the Bargaining Unit language
  • Prohibition of eliminating full-time jobs in order to replace with one or more part-time workers.
  • Notice to the Union when positions are to be eliminated.

We felt that we presented very compelling evidence of the need for these improvements. Despite the fact that the arbitrator acknowledged the validity of each one of these proposals, he still refused to award any changes! We find this incredibly disappointing and demoralizing. We’ve been told in so many previous rounds that we needed evidence that our language was causing us problems – this round we provided that evidence, but it had no impact on the arbitrator. Every other hospital union has the language we are seeking. All we can do is try harder next round and make sure that we continue to collect solid and current evidence that demonstrates that we need improved job security protection.

With respect to wages, we are disappointed that our requested across-the-Board wage increase of 3.3 per cent to all classifications did not succeed. The Board also did not award our proposed 25-year step increase of 1.8 per cent for RTs, vision care, shift premium and vacation improvements – all of which would have brought us up to the same levels as ONA. Of course, the Hospitals also did not get their wage proposals – neither their 0.4 per cent in each year, nor their new start rate at 3 per cent below the current one.

In fact, none of the hospitals concessions were awarded by the Board. Eight concessions were tabled – more than any other hospital central table! These concessions were:

  1. New start rate at 3 per cent below the current start rate
  2. Short Shifts – Hospital’s proposal shall not be unreasonably denied by the Union
  3. HOODIP – the Hospitals wanted to totally restructure HOODIP to reduce their costs on the backs of ill members. There were multiple concessions in this proposal: reduction of short term sick pay to 70 per cent for all employees, requiring employees to access Employment Insurance at Week 3 instead of Week 16 (with top up to 70 per cent), reduction of long term disability pay at 30 years from 75 per cent to 70 per cent, reinstatement of short-term benefits only after five consecutive weeks at work (currently three weeks) and the termination of LTD benefits at age 65.
  4. Eliminate the members’ right to grieve denial of LTD claims.
  5. Increase employees’ share of LTD premiums from the current 25 per cent to 100 per cent.
  6. The Hospitals wanted to limit full vacation entitlement to only those who worked a certain number of hours per year, otherwise they would receive prorated vacation pay only. This would have had the greatest negative impact on members taking pregnancy and parental leave.
  7. Reduction in the percent in lieu from 14 per cent/12 per cent to 13 per cent/9 per cent.
  8. Introduction of a lower percent in lieu payment for retirees receiving early retiree benefits who return to work as casuals. The Hospitals wanted these individuals to receive only 4 per cent.

OPSEU fought hard to get all of these concessions off the table. One of the ways we did this was to engage the services of Andrew Harington, a Chartered Financial Analyst, to help us push back on some of the Hospitals’ concessionary proposals. He was particularly helpful on the Hospitals’ proposal for a new start rate, showing that it was much more of a financial windfall for Employers than the Hospital team was admitting. We are very pleased that all of these proposals were rejected by the Arbitrator.

The bargaining team wishes to thank every member for their strong support during this round of bargaining.

Your HPD 2014 Bargaining Team Members

Sandi Blancher, Chair, Local 106
Betty Palmieri, Vice-Chair, Local 206
Sara Labelle, Local 348
Yves Shank, Local 659
John Francis, Local 346
Brendan Kilcline, Local 444
Vince Gobind, Local 311
Rob Field, Senior Negotiator
Michèle Dawson Haber, Senior Research Officer

Authorized for distribution:

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President