Update on Bargaining in Ontario

There has been a good deal discussion in the media about a two year wage freeze for Ontario public sector workers, including university academic and general staff. We would like you to be aware of the facts.

On Tuesday, Dwight Duncan, the Minister of Finance, met with stakeholders and said that he was encouraging all those in bargaining to agree to a pause and that all interest arbitrations be put on hold. He also announced that the Government was convening sectoral “consultations” with the university sector scheduled for Aug 9-20 at the Royal York in Toronto.

Apparently, the participants will work around the clock for twelve days to reach a consensus. The objective of the “consultation” is for labour and management in the university sector plus government representatives to come up with solutions and options on how to meet the Government’s policy objectives.

On Thursday, CAUT arranged a conference call of the leaders of all academic staff associations currently in bargaining to share information about what the government had said and to discuss what we, as the associations representing academic staff, wanted to do. It was agreed that there will be a meeting in Toronto next week of the presidents of all academic staff associations in Ontario to discuss whether we will participate in the “consultation”; if so, who our negotiators will be; what mandate they will have from all the academic staff associations in Ontario; and what system of accountability there will be between those at the table and the leadership of associations across the province. The actual agenda will be set by the presidents at the start of next week’s meeting — the date still to be determined. OCUFA is sending out a notice to each president and CAUT and OCUFA will cover the travel costs.

Until then, it is important to know:

1) The government has stated its wish that there be no net compensation increase for the first two years of any agreement signed after the current agreement expires. There has been no legislation that authorizes the government to impose this restriction.

2) The government has indicated its desire that bargaining be paused and that all interest arbitration be placed on hold until after the Aug 9-20 “consultation.”. As with the first item, this is only a request and the government has no legislative authority to impose it. Parties are free to continue bargaining and to negotiate whatever they want. The government has indicated that it will not add additional money in the event of a negotiated increase so each university would have to find the money in its current budget.

3) The government’s hope apparently is that the Aug 9-20 “consultation” will result in the parties agreeing to a sectoral framework consistent with the government’s plan. It seemed to be the consensus of presidents on Thursday’s conference call that the obligation of academic staff associations is to put the interests of its members first, not to act as an agent for the government in its efforts at setting sectoral bargaining restrictions.

We will keep you updated following the meeting of association presidents next week.

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