Public sector bargaining: only 25% of settlements have zero wage increases

OCUFA Report Volume 4 Number 5

The government’s wage freeze policy for public-sector workers appears to be hitting roadblocks, trends in recent public-sector settlements indicate. Compliance with the government’s policy has not increased since the government ramped up its drive for the freeze by summoning public-sector employers and bargaining agents to a series of consultations beginning July 20. About one in four contracts reached after the March Budget contained no wage increases, and the consultation process has not changed that figure one whit.

Unfortunately, the government’s intrusion into bargaining has slowed the pace of settlements significantly, with only 25 per cent of the usual number of settlements having been reached by this time in the bargaining calendar.

Faculty bargaining continues to heat up. The University of Western Ontario Faculty Association will hold a strike vote the last week in September. As reported last week, the Carleton University Academic Staff Association has scheduled a strike vote for October 4 and 5.

At Western, the faculty association is in the midst of conciliation, which will continue October 13. The administration’s attack on tenure and its demands to intrude on faculty members’ privacy are major issues in the talks. The employer has yet to table a financial proposal.

In the meantime, during their weekly conference call last Friday, faculty negotiators across the province reported that the arbitration award made in the health-care sector last week has heartened faculty association members about their own negotiations. The award gave 17,000 nursing-home workers, members of the Service Employees International Union, a two-per-cent wage increase. The award does not comply with the Ontario government’s policy of zero wage increases in the public sector and indicates that arbitrators do not feel compelled to support the government’s demand for a freeze.

Progress at other OCUFA-member faculty tables is uneven, with many employers appearing to take a wait-and-see position, as eyes turn towards the University of Toronto arbitration compensation award, now
expected for the end of this month.

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