Important updates on Bill-135, wage reopener negotiations and your next round of bargaining

I wanted to reach out to provide an update on your current and upcoming bargaining negotiations and the future of Home and Community Care Support Services (HCCSSs). On behalf of all of OPSEU/SEFPO, I also want to extend our solidarity and support for you in the months ahead.

On Dec. 4, Bill 135, the Convenient Care at Home Act, received royal ascent. The Act will see the amalgamation of all HCCSSs into Ontario Health at Home.

Although details on how the Act will be implemented are unclear, OPSEU/SEFPO is committed to supporting all members through this transition. Restructuring and changes to our workplace inevitably come with some confusion, anxiety, and frustration. We will keep you updated as we learn more about the impact of the Act and the changes ahead.

Right now, our immediate priorities are bargaining fair deals that include retroactive pay to make up for your wages that were unfairly suppressed by Ford’s unconstitutional Bill 124 and achieve wage increases moving forward that address the current cost of living crisis.

Wage reopener negotiations

In your last round of bargaining, we negotiated re-opener language should the Ford government’s wage suppression legislation (Bill 124) be found unconstitutional or be otherwise amended or repealed.

On November 29th, 2022, Justice Koehnen deemed the legislation “void and of no effect” and ruled that that the wage restraints imposed by the Bill were a violation of your Charter Rights.

Earlier this year your bargaining team gave the employer a proposal in our wage negotiations that reflected your demands from the last round of bargaining and the ever-rising cost of living and inflation.

On Oct 21, 2023, the employer offered a 0.75 per cent wage increase in each year of the current Collective Agreement. The employer went to great lengths to emphasize that this offer is coming directly from the Ford government.

There’s more – the employer included a provision, which would further delay the payment of the wage increases. You would not see any wage increases or retroactive pay until all legal avenues are exhausted on the appeal of the Bill, including a challenge at the Supreme Court of Canada – which could take years.

This is simply not acceptable. We will continue to pressure the employer and government for a fair and equitable wage reopener agreement.

Bargaining fair new contracts

At the same time, we will continue to fight for better wages as we bargain your new Collective Agreements through local bargaining.

Your wages have been suppressed for far too long and you deserve to see meaningful increases now.

While we will continue to monitor the impacts of the Ford government’s latest privatization and health care restructuring scheme and how it will impact your work, we refuse to allow it to distract from your right to a fair deal or to allow health care workers (and your collective bargaining rights) to get lost amid the chaos the government has chosen to create.

Together with you and support from the Campaigns and Communications units, we will organize and fight to make sure the employer respects your work and contributions to the health and wellbeing of all Ontarians.

Stay tuned for more updates and direction from your bargaining teams.

In solidarity,

JP Hornick