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OPS Table Talk 2015 Issue 37 — Questions and Answers about the Tentative Agreement in the Correctional Bargaining Unit

In the days since your Corrections bargaining team signed a tentative collective agreement with our employer on November 23, the team has heard, and answered, a lot of questions from members about the deal. Here’s a listing of the most common questions – and your team’s answers.

Q1. Why should we trust the COR-only language in the tentative deal? Can’t the government just change its mind?

The tentative deal is a signed contract once it is ratified. The language had to be structured that way, because at some point, an agreement between the parties is the ONLY way that making the necessary changes to achieve a COR-only collective agreement can occur.

On December 3, Yasir Naqvi, the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, stood up in the Legislature to reaffirm the government’s commitment to COR-only. Said Naqvi:

“The tentative agreement with the bargaining unit is a further evidence of our government’s continued support for the officers. If ratified, Speaker, it will provide the framework for a stand-alone Correctional Bargaining Unit collective agreement for future rounds of collective bargaining.”

The Ontario Liberal Party has made it clear that it is committed to honouring the deal that the employer’s bargaining team has signed.

Should the employer and government try to back out of their commitment, it would invite litigation at the Ontario Labour Relations Board and in the courts. That would be very embarrassing and would impugn their reputation, not only with their negotiations with public service unions, but with every business and other government with whom they negotiate.

Q2.Can you explain Appendix A?

Appendix A is failsafe wording allowing for the parties to move forward if amendments to the Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act (CECBA) have not occurred through legislation within the term of the 2015-17 collective agreement.

Q3. How will the consultations with OPSEU on CECBA be conducted?

The President’s Office and the OPSEU Executive Board will determine this process upon ratification. The intention is that this consultation will begin within 60 days of ratification to facilitate the change in legislation that will be necessary. OPSEU’s interest in the consultation will be to secure COR only in legislation and to protect and promote the interests of all OPSEU members who bargain under CECBA.

Q4. When will COR-only bargaining start?

The bargaining process will commence in June 2017. Your elected team will be negotiating the contract as a stand-alone agreement.

Q5. If the CECBA amendments are not made by 2017, and bargaining starts under the authority of Appendix A, can or will the government revise CECBA to take away a COR-only agreement?

The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) and Appendix A are signed contracts with the employer. Appendix A is the failsafe that would be implemented if the CECBA amendments are not enacted by the time we begin negotiations in June 2017.

In Appendix A, the parties have agreed to bargain in good faith and make all reasonable efforts to negotiate a stand-alone agreement with binding arbitration. If the government tried to back out of the contract, it would be in violation of our agreement, and litigation could be commenced.

It is an unlikely scenario, given that it would be bargaining in bad faith of the highest degree and would seriously damage the reputation of the government in all of its future negotiations with other organizations and businesses.

Q6. What legal repercussions are available if the employer violates the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on COR-only?

It would depend on how the employer violated the MOA. OPSEU’s legal response could be through the Ontario Labour Relations Board or, potentially, through the courts if there were allegations of violations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Q7. Why does the language on COR-only contain so many ambiguous words?

The language had to be structured so that it did not bind the Ontario legislature. Contracts between the employer and OPSEU are not legally allowed to compel the legislature to enact law or amendments to law. The employer has signed a binding contract that can be litigated, if necessary, and has indicated that the intent of the governing party would be to honour the commitments made within our agreement upon ratification.

Q8. Can we get COR-only if we go on strike?

The employer cannot legally give us a COR-only agreement unless amendments are made to CECBA, or the parties agree to renegotiate language similar to that which existed in the tentative agreement.

Q9. What happens to the MOA if the governing party changes before the CECBA amendments are made?

The MOA is part of our collective agreement, which is a binding legal contract between the union and the Crown in Right of Ontario, as represented by Management Board of Cabinet. That means the contract is binding on the Ontario government, no matter which party is in power.

Questions about Compensating Time Off (CTO)

Q10. Do we need local agreements so people can actually use their CTO for time off?

A. CTO will be administered as it has been in the past. The employer will have the right to refuse time off if they have legitimate operational requirements. Your H-Pro program will identify if there is opportunity for time off.

Q11. Are fixed-term employees (FXT) eligible to bank CTO?

No, FXTs do not have the ability to bank CTO. This is consistent with the Central agreement.

Questions about Accumulated Compensating Leave (ACL)

Q12. Does everyone get ACL?

Yes, EVERY member of the Correctional Bargaining Unit gets ACL. This includes FXT and regular part time staff.

Q13. Is ACL pensionable if it is cashed out?

ACL is a pensionable earning if it is taken as time off. If the ACL is cashed it is NOT pensionable. The definition of pensionable earnings is that it must be a regular ongoing payment, and a once a year payment is not considered ongoing.

Here’s a link to the OPTrust website that talks about this: http://www.optrust.com/Employers/Employer-Manual/reporting-pension-data/pensionable-salary.asp

Strike scenario questions

Q14. What will happen if this tentative agreement is rejected?

There are no facts about the future, only possible scenarios. If the tentative agreement is rejected, the bargaining team will ask the employer to return to conciliation and resume bargaining. If the employer does not agree, the bargaining team intends to ask the Ministry of Labour for a “no board report.” When the no-board report is received – typically in a few days – that starts the 17-day countdown to a legal strike or lockout deadline.

As we have stated previously, the employer has stated emphatically that COR-only would come off the table if the parties requested a “no board” or entered a labour dispute.

Q15. Can we be legislated back to work during a labour dispute?

The government has the ability to pass any legislation it wants, subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Download Table Talk 37

Related: OPS Bargaining 2014 Index Page