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2010-08-24 at 15:51

Provincial policy leads to bargaining challenges, NOSM says

By Scott Paradis, tbnewswatch.com
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Provincial government policy limits what the Northern Ontario School of Medicine can offer at the negotiation table, the school’s dean said Monday.

In its 2010 budget Ontario implemented a policy statement that said it would honour current collective agreements for public service workers, but asked that new collective agreements be at least two years in length and contain zero net compensation increases.

The government said it drafted the policy to help it deal with fiscal challenges during tough economic times, but has drawn strong criticism from some labour organizations and unions.

"This is certainly a complicating factor in negotiating what is a first collective agreement with this group of employees," NOSM dean Roger Strasser said Monday.

NOSM isn’t sure what would happen if the bargaining unit decided to go against the provincial policy, but does believe there would be fiscal consequences that could hurt the school.

"I’m not sure they are completely clear," Strasser said of the ramifications for negotiation against the province’s policy statement. "But the general indication is that the support that we now have from the government, in particular funding increases, would not be coming forward to any sector that doesn’t follow this policy."

NOSM administrative employees hit the picket lines more than a week ago after talks between their employer and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union that represents them broke down Monday, Aug. 16.

Since then 150 staff members from the Lakehead Univeristy campus and the Laurentian University campus in Sudbury have been on strike.

OPSEU Local 677 members voted 97 per cent in favour of providing their union with a strike mandate, which was followed by 34 days of negotiations. Some of the unresolved issues left on the bargaining table include overtime, sick leaves, family leaves and wages.

NOSM officials have said they are committed to maintaining a competitive compensation program to retain and attract staff. Strasser said NOSM can continue to honour that pledge while complying with the province’s wage policy.

"We have to remember that compensation is more than just money," he said. "If you go to the Northern Ontario School of Medicine website you will see a series of questions and answers that outline the competitive benefits and other terms and conditions of employment that the school offers.

"The school certainly has been respectful and has recognized the value of these employees over the year and there have been pay increases on a regular basis."

Smokey Thomas, president of OPSEU, said he isn’t a fan of the province’s policy statement and doesn’t believe that universities should be captured within it. Other unions, including university and college faculty unions, agree.

Thomas appeared at the local picket line just off of Lakehead University property in Thunder Bay Monday afternoon. He arrived after visiting with striking workers at the Sudbury campus.

Before the picket line visits the union president said he had a chance to meet with provincial officials, but could not get a straight answer regarding the budget policy statement.

"This is no different than the eco-fee fiasco, they just really and truly don’t know what they are doing," Thomas said.

As for NOSM, Thomas accuses the employer of forcing a strike by putting an offer on the table that they know will not be accepted by the union’s members.

"You shouldn’t go into a first contract negotiation and go backwards in so many areas," he said. "There’s so many outstanding issues on the table and the employer needs to come back to the t able with some realistic proposals."


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Comments

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Steven says:
Why is this a bargaining challenge? The province runs things, pays the bills etc, and during this tough time is asking for restraint. It should be simple: The union and its members, who enjoy their nice lifestyle off the public teat, should take a pay freeze, if not a cut.

Everyone else is, why are they immune? Come on unions! How about a little social responsibility towards the taxpayers and province? Isn't that what unions always say they are for?
8/24/2010 8:05:46 PM
patti says:
How Dr. Stasser can look the camera straight in the face while hiding behind Dalton McGuinty fiscal challenges is beyond me.

Dr. Stasser makes over 300K a year(not inc perks), probably has more air miles than the whole staff at TBT news.(of course it's all work related) lol

Yes NOSM has been a success ~ and Dr. Stasser takes most of the credit for it ~ but lets face it .... it's off the backs of the employees.
8/24/2010 8:27:49 PM
yer joking says:
Well ongratulations to Dalton. He learned something from Bob Rae. Put the monkey on someone else's back. We can't give our employees a fair raise or anything else. Well at least it's not as blatant as Rae Days. But sorry Dalton it still comes back to bite you.
8/25/2010 10:41:38 AM
tudor says:
Here is my questions for both sides.

1. Why does the gov't policy of wage restraint not apply to this union

2. why cant an agreement be ironed out that does not speak to wages for now. If this is the first agreement, certainly language clauses and the current salary structure can be incorporated into a contract. Maybe that would help get people back to work in the short term

3. can both sides agree to not discuss wages for now until the gov't policy is determined to either apply to them or not. Why stay out on strike if at the end of the day, you may not be able to get a raise anyway.
8/25/2010 11:27:17 AM
Dudebro says:
I just can't believe that such a great educational facility like this that there is such a requirement for, will be brought to its knees for the most part while both sides widdle about they're wants/needs.
All involved should be working harder to negotiate the issues without having to interrupt the services this facility offers.
Its time to change the way these negotiation tactics are handled right from the start...and this means from both ends, union AND administration
8/25/2010 12:59:52 PM
Optimus Pine says:
NOSM receives no sympathy from me. IMO, educated, skilled, employable people have the ability to search for jobs that offers adequate compensation. Going on strike because you have 1/2 time is a bit of a cry-baby attitude.
8/26/2010 11:26:23 AM
Fox Moulder says:
An administrative assistant at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine starts at 28K/year and maxes out at 34k/year... I highly doubt that anyone thinks this is "cushy". Strasser and is $372,00 per year ... now that is cushy.
8/27/2010 12:00:21 AM
lori says:
yer joking

I know you are fixated, but I am at a loss to see the connection between this issue and McGuinty.

Not every problem in this world is his fault.

I don't think he started WWIe. But I do think he was there when WWII started. For sure the Korean war was his fault and the jury is still out on Viet Nam.

Keep up your efforts.

Soon, the Salem witch trials will be his fault.
8/28/2010 10:32:33 AM
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