Bill 124 has significantly impacted this round of collective bargaining. In LockTalk Issue #2, we provided information on how Bill 124 would impact on the negotiations, and described the process for requesting an exemption under Section 27 of Bill 124. On December 7, 2021, the Correctional Bargaining Team submitted an exemption request to the Honourable Prabmeet Sarkaria – the President of the Treasury Board Secretariat.
The exemption request was a comprehensive document highlighting the rationale for exempting the Correctional Bargaining Unit from Bill 124 in four key areas:
- Many comparators for the Correctional Bargaining Unit are not subject to Bill 124. This will aggravate the current recruitment and retention issues facing bargaining unit positions.
- The particularly dangerous nature of the work within the Correctional Bargaining Unit requires a commensurate wage increase to reflect the risks our members face.
- Correctional Bargaining Unit members continued to work during COVID-19 while facing outbreaks in correctional institutions.
- The growing recruitment and retention issues that will be exacerbated by Bill 124 will place the Employer in a legally vulnerable position by preventing them from meeting legal obligations to inmates/youth given the outcome of recent charter challenges.
The Correctional Bargaining Team submitted evidence of the pay disparities across multiple classifications, the increase in violence within correctional institutions, the increase of workplace injuries and WSIB claims, the impact of COVID-19 on members, and the challenges that short staffing across departments is having on the Employer being able to meet their legal obligations.
On October 26, 2022, the Correctional Bargaining Team received a letter dated October 21st from Deborah Richardson – the Deputy Minister for the Treasury Board Secretariat and Secretary of the Treasury Board and Management Board of Cabinet. In this letter, DM Richardson informed the Correctional Bargaining Team that the request for an exemption to Bill 124 was not granted.
To add insult to injury, the very next day, on October 27, 2022, the results of the OPS Employee Experience survey for the Ministry of the Solicitor General were released to all employees. The release said:
You identified fairness of pay and suitability of benefits as opportunities for growth. We are committed to ensuring your voice is heard on these issues and to working with our partners to identify valuable and sustainable solutions.
Once again, our employer’s words are not matching their actions. How are our voices being heard when our issues are being dismissed from the bargaining table? What other solutions are on the table to address the growing pay and benefits gaps our members are facing? The reality is that the employer doesn’t have any. Our employer thinks that Bill 124 is “a fair and time-limited approach to moderating compensation across the provincial public sector”. They are quite happy to give us 1% when we are facing crippling inflation that will only exacerbate our recruitment and retention issues.
Shame. Shame on them for repeatedly saying employees are their most valuable resource, and then presenting us with rollbacks and concessions at the bargaining table.
Despite the challenges of Bill 124 and the employer’s attitude at the bargaining table, your Correctional Bargaining Team remains committed to the bargaining process. Our next step remains to head to arbitration. The parties have agreed that Arbitrator William Kaplan will be hearing the case.
Arbitration dates have been set for April 13 and 14, 2023. The Bargaining Team will continue to work with Nini Jones and her team to prepare the arbitration brief.
Janet Laverty, Bargaining Team Chair
Adam Cygler, Bargaining Team Vice Chair