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OPS Table Talk 2016 Issue 43 – Corrections bargaining enters new world today

The collective agreement signed today at 4:20 a.m. between OPSEU and the Government of Ontario begins a new era in bargaining for correctional services.

For the first time in more than two decades, it sends the critical issue of wage fairness to binding arbitration. It reaffirms the government’s promise to change Ontario law to create a Corrections-only bargaining unit. And it reaffirms the government’s commitment to make arbitration a permanent option for Corrections bargaining.

This deal was made possible by the incredible power of OPSEU members. In the workplace, in the news media, in MPPs’ offices, and on the street, you showed our employer that this time we would not take less than we need. Your power moved the employer at the bargaining table. The employer knew that you were ready to strike, and ready to stay on strike to win the respect we all deserve.

As corrections professionals, we deserve to be treated as the first responders we are. Workers in other jobs don’t see random violence, psychological trauma, and heartbreaking tragedy on a regular basis. We do. This contract will allow an arbitrator to compare us to other workers who know what we’re living through because they do, too.

We knew this was one gain we could not win at arbitration if we were legislated back to work after weeks on strike. So instead of taking a chance, we took the guarantee.

We know it was the right thing to do. We’re proud of this deal.

This agreement includes all the improvements agreed to in the November 23 tentative agreement. But it goes much further.

Here are the highlights:

1.  Wages head to arbitration

The new deal gives arbitrator Kevin Burkett the power to decide on special wage adjustments for all Correctional Bargaining Unit members for 2016 and 2017. It permits him to make those adjustments retroactive. He will also rule on the issue of newer staff moving up the pay grid.

The arbitrator will base his decision on wages, working conditions, and staffing levels in “work of a similar nature in other Canadian jurisdictions.”

2. Freeze lifted on pay grid progression

As of now, members who have not reached the top of the pay grid will move up one step if they were hired before 2015, based on the anniversary of their hire. Those who have still not reached the top of the grid will move up another step in 2016 if their anniversary date occurs before the arbitrator rules on wages.

The parties agree that the goal is for the arbitrator to rule before March 31, 2016. In his ruling, the arbitrator will decide whether movement through the grid will continue through the rest of 2016 and 2017.

The arbitrator will not rescind any pay increases that result from movement through the grid in 2015 or prior to his ruling in 2016.

3. More Probation and Parole Officers added

The employer has agreed to hire 25 new Probation and Parole Officers. This is an increase in complement.

4. Joint committee to look at probation workloads

The employer has agreed to set up a new joint committee to discuss workloads for Probation Officers and Probation and Parole Officers. The Workload Review and Redeployment Subcommittee will make recommendations to address workload issues. Discussions between the union and the employer will begin within 60 days.

5. Bankable hours increased for CTO

From April 1 to December 31, 2016, staff will be able to accumulate up to 36 hours of Compensating Time Off per quarter. As of January 1, 2017, staff will be able to accumulate up to 100 hours of CTO for the year.

6. All COBUSA positions saved

The employer has dropped its demand to reduce the number of Correctional Bargaining Unit Scheduling Assistants (COBUSAs) in the province. All existing COBUSA positions will remain.

7. Expedited process for bargaining-related discipline

Recently, some OPSEU members have been disciplined by the employer for actions taken during the recent round of bargaining. The parties will meet no later than January 18, 2016 to resolve these matters or send them to arbitration quickly.

Thank you for your support

The deal we signed today begins a new era in Corrections bargaining. We have taken the first step in addressing the Crisis in Corrections. The campaign will continue and intensify. All members of your bargaining team look forward to taking the next steps with you – together.

Thank you for all your support in this round of bargaining.

In solidarity,
Your Corrections Bargaining Team

Read the MoS

To download the final Memorandum of Settlement, including items agreed to earlier, Click Here

Questions and answers about the new Corrections agreement

What do I do at midnight?

There is no strike or lockout. You are required to report to your normal work schedule.

Will there be a ratification vote?

There is no vote. Outstanding issues will go to binding arbitration in front of a single arbitrator, Kevin Burkett. The issues already agreed on will form part of the arbitrator’s award.

How soon until we get to binding arbitration?

It is the intent of both parties that arbitration will conclude by the end of March 2016.

What is the term of the agreement?

The agreement is a three-year deal that runs from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2017.

Do we have our Corrections-only collective agreement?

The parties intend to create a separate “stand-alone” collective agreement covering all terms and conditions of employment for employees in the Correctional Bargaining Unit upon expiry of the current collective agreement.

Why do we have to wait until 2018?

First of all, the government needs time to change the Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act (CECBA). Second, the current agreement runs until the end of 2017. The next collective agreement will be a stand-alone Corrections agreement.

What date do the agreed-upon items become effective?

Details on this issue will be posted on the OPSEU web site at a later date.

Who will argue the union’s case at arbitration?

OPSEU has long experience with interest arbitrations of this kind. Corrections members will have the support of all the collective bargaining, research, and legal expertise needed to make the strongest possible case at the arbitration hearings.

Are all correctional services in Ontario now “essential” services?

Not yet – technically. The usual meaning of an essential service is one in which the workers are legally barred from striking, which is not the case right now. OPSEU members could have gone on strike at midnight tonight, but with this deal we’ve agreed to settle the remaining issues at arbitration. Once the government changes CECBA, it will be accurate to say that Corrections is an essential service. Correctional workers will no longer have the legal right to strike at that time.

What if I have been disciplined during this round of negotiations?

The employer acknowledged the union has raised a number of issues with respect to recent discipline during this round of bargaining. The parties agree to meet no later than January 18, 2016 in an effort to resolve these matters. Any unresolved matters will be referred through the grievance procedure to arbitration in an expeditious manner.

Got more questions? Call the War Room!

If you have any questions about the new Corrections agreement that aren’t answered in this Table Talk, please contact OPSEU’s Corrections War Room. The email address is correctionswarroom@opseu.org; the phone numbers are (416) 448-7433 or 1-800-268-7376 ext. 7433.