TORONTO, May 8, 2013 /CNW/ - Today, Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) President and CEO Pat Campbell
issued the following statement in response to an arbitrated
compensation award covering hospital employees represented by the
Service Employees International Union (SEIU):
"The compensation award given to the SEIU encapsulates much of what is
wrong with Ontario's current labour arbitration system.
The OHA began this specific bargaining process with the SEIU in 2009. At
the time, the SEIU rejected the same offer the OHA had made to, and was
voluntarily accepted by, other unions representing the same types of
hospital employees, and opted for arbitration.
Since 2009, the Government of Ontario has imposed a two-year pay freeze
for all non-union staff in the broader public sector (this freeze has
since ended), and the then-Finance Minister directed broader public
sector employers to seek 0 per cent annual wage increases when
bargaining, and encouraged unions to voluntarily accept them.
Ontario's arbitration system allowed the SEIU to receive the same wage
increases as their peers had freely negotiated in 2009 and 2010, even
though SEIU rejected those increases during bargaining and the policy
and fiscal environments have changed dramatically since then. It
allowed the arbitrator to ignore a recent award given to hospital
employees represented by the Canadian Auto Workers union, which
represents the same types of hospital employees as SEIU, that would see
two years of 0 per cent increases in wages, beginning in 2012. It also
allowed the arbitrator to ignore the fact that hospitals have received
no real increases in operating funding since 2010, and impose new
ongoing annual costs of $22 million on the affected hospitals.
In effect, Ontario's arbitration system gave the SEIU a consequence-free
"do-over." Arbitration awards like these reduce the incentive for
broader public sector employers and unions to act responsibly during
bargaining, drive up hospitals' costs at a time when they simply can't
afford them, and may result in reductions in staff and, more
importantly, front-line patient services.
The OHA has called on the government to introduce changes to Ontario's
labour arbitration system that would compel arbitrators to fully
consider hospitals' ability to pay wage increases without eroding
patient care services. To date, the government has been unwilling to
take action or to impose an across-the-board wage freeze on all broader
public sector employers. Moreover, the new Ontario government appears
to be backing away from the previous government's approach of directing
that employers and unions achieve voluntary 0 per cent wage increases.
Given that hospitals will soon be negotiating new collective agreements
with their major unions, the risks to this sector and the services it
provides are elevated.
Let's be clear: hospitals believe their employees deserve fair
compensation, and they work hard to ensure that their employees are
fairly compensated. However, hospitals' priority is providing patient
care. Given hospitals' funding realities, it is vital that the
government reform Ontario's labour arbitration process and take other
steps to enable hospitals to maintain patient care while meeting the
government's stated fiscal priorities. "
SOURCE: Ontario Hospital Association
For further information:
OHA Public Affairs