Public sector arbitrations challenged

Criticism comes in wake of final pre-election budget in Ontario

Many commentators are criticizing Ontario arbitrators for granting wage increases to healthcare workers, despite the government’s pressure to freeze broader public sector wages for two years.

The most recent came on March 30 in the Toronto Star where Michael Warren, who is identified as a corporate board member and commentator, suggests that “Arbitrators should be required to demonstrate in their decisions that they have given full consideration to equality of compensation for comparable jobs in the private sector.”

The arbitration that got this all started, Norm Jesin’s interest award for the Service Employees International Union and Participating Nursing Homes, was for employees at a number of for-profit homes, including Extendicare, Leisure World, Chartwell and Revera.

In this week’s issue we have a collective agreement awarded by interest arbitration at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences in Whitby, Ont. with a two-year wage freeze within a five-year agreement.

In addition, one paid union position has been added to the current unpaid position recognized by the employer.

A partial freeze is in place at the Toronto region distribution centres of the supermarket chain Metro. Current employees will see increases, but new employees, as they move through the 60-month wage progression, will not. This is in addition to the one fewer holiday that employees hired after September 15, 2007 receive.

The company contribution to the dental plan and the safety boot allowance have also been increased.

Probation is increased by 30 hours.

Employees at the Eden Care Centre in Chilliwack, B.C. have added nine months with no wage increase to their current contract, but they have received a new employee-paid L.T.D. plan and company-paid life insurance and critical care insurance.

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