With the tabling of a Hamilton Police Service budget calling for a 4.75% increase, there had been increased focus on the public sector arbitration process which covers essential emergency service providers. Municipalities have complained that they are powerless to stem wage demand from Police and Fire because the unions can take their case to provincial arbitrators who have routinely rubber stamped the increases, or in some cases even increased them beyond what the unions had requested. They Bay Observer asked the two perceived frontrunners in the current race to replace Premier Dalton McGuinty to tell us what they would do about the current provincial arbitration system.
I will work with municipalities and our partners in the broader public sector to improve the interest arbitration process. I support focused and balanced reforms that will increase accountability, transparency and timeliness within the interest arbitration system, while preserving the independence of the decision-making process. I’ve heard from municipal leaders that we need to address challenges in the interest arbitration process in Ontario.
More broadly, we need a sustainable model for wage negotiations that exists within the fiscal reality – a structured dialogue with our partners in the broader public sector to create innovative models for engagement and negotiation.
Under Ontario Liberals’ original 2012 budget proposal, there would have been a legal requirement for interest arbitrators, upon the request of either party, to provide written reasons demonstrating that they have given proper consideration to all sides during bargaining. These and other proposed changes would have added transparency to the process, something municipal leaders have called for.
Unfortunately, opposition members at the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs voted against the schedules that contained these changes, denying municipalities and others the opportunity to benefit from these process improvements. I will look at re-introducing these proposed improvements.”
“This is a system that keeps our communities safe by supporting essential services like our police and firefighters. So we need to ensure that it’s fair and transparent, while also respecting municipal taxpayers. I would ensure that arbitrators always consider municipalities’ ability to pay and maintain an open, independent and accountable arbitration system that delivers decisions as quickly as possible.”