In 2006, a decision was issued by Vice-Chair Randi Abramsky of the Grievance Settlement Board that determined that the production of transcripts was bargaining unit work of the court reporters. As you know, the practice is for court reporters to transcribe the record outside of working hours and bill the individuals requesting the record as independent contractors at a per page rate set by the employer. These contractors are responsible for purchasing their own equipment and adjusting their homes to allow for the work to be completed, while receiving no benefits, no pension credit or employer contribution and no overtime for doing the work.
Hunt et al was a grievance that was filed by court reporters who recognized this practice as unfair. The Union also filed a grievance asking for compliance with the recognition clause of the collective agreement. We maintain that the transcription work is bargaining unit work that is entitled to all of the rights, entitlements and benefits of the Collective Agreement.
The Union and members were successful in their grievances and a positive determination was made as indicated earlier. Vice Chair Abramsky did not, however, address the issue of remedy and sent the parties back to work out how we might implement her order.
In response to the order, the Ministry of Attorney General started a review of court reporting within the Province. The Union agreed to maintain a status quo arrangement pending this review. In October 2008, MAG finally came to the Union with their new model for court reporting. The model that was being recommended by the employer did not address what we heard to be the member’s concerns. The Union gave the employer a counter proposal and after five days of failed negotiations we informed the employer that we would be going back to Vice-Chair Abramsky for determination of remedy.
On June 1, 2009 we returned to the Grievance Settlement Board to argue the issues around remedy. Unfortunately, the employer used that day to resist our attempts to arbitrate and further dates were scheduled.
In July, the Union was made aware of a new scheme by the employer that involved a modification to their previously stated plan that amounted to further contracting in of the transcription work. This is the very issue that was originally grieved in 2006. The Union responded immediately and returned to the GSB asking Vice Chair Abramsky for an order directing MAG to cease and desist with their plan. The Union was successful and an order was issued which is attached to this communication. The employer, who for reasons known only to them, has now issued a disclosure to staff outlining parts of this failed plan – even though they have been issued an order that they cannot implement it. Our best advice is to ignore it as it is meaningless.
Further technical arguments have ensued and unfortunately, we have been delayed in getting to the real issues of remedy at the GSB hearing.
On the last date of hearing we received notice that a party had applied for intervener status. Three independent contractors, in part being supported by the Court Reporters Association of Ontario, hired a lawyer and argued that they should have standing in the hearing.
MAG and the Union objected to their standing and Vice-Chair Abramsky agreed. A copy of her decision is also attached to this communication. Hopefully now we can finally get to the merits of the arguments around remedy.
The Union is looking for both a retrospective and prospective remedy. This means that we will be looking for what is owed to members as a result of the employer’s failure to implement Hunt in the past and what should be owed or determined in the future. In other words, how do we move forward ensuring that those employees producing the transcript are members of the bargaining unit and are receiving proper wages, benefits, pension, equipment and fair compensation? The Union will argue strenuously against any circumstances that would permit transcription work to be done by independent contractors outside of the collective agreement.
We look forward to continuing to provide updates to you as this hearing proceeds. Your interests as Court Reporters are paramount as we move through this process. Your MERC co-chair attends every hearing, as do other court reporters who are advisors to the Union. However, the interests of independent contractors will not be a factor in our consideration.
Thank you for your ongoing support in our efforts to ensure fairness, appropriate compensation and protection of the bargaining unit.