AMAPCEO Expresses Concern Over Negotiations with Government

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The Association of Management, Administrative and Professional Crown Employees of Ontario (AMAPCEO) expressed concern last month over the state of negotiations with its employer, the Government of Ontario.

The Association of Management, Administrative and Professional Crown Employees of Ontario (AMAPCEO) expressed concern last month over the state of negotiations with its employer, the Government of Ontario.

In a statement that appeared both on the AMAPCEO website and in the May edition of AMAPCEO Member News, the AMAPCEO Bargaining Team noted that bargaining for a new collective agreement began in April with the exchange of proposals between AMAPCEO and the employer. Unfortunately, the negotiations got off to a rocky start as a result of two disappointing and surprising moves by AMAPCEO’s employer.

The first surprise was the employer’s demand for concessions in the area of job security.

The employer is proposing that the critical AMAPCEO job security entitlements negotiated with the Mike Harris government in 1996 be given up. This includes an end to the right to enhanced severance, to pension bridging and to Factor 80 for surplused AMAPCEO employees.

In the statement, the AMAPCEO bargaining team said “It is difficult for AMAPCEO to take these extreme proposals seriously. They would take away hard won employee entitlements that have been an entrenched part of the job security system in the OPS for a decade. AMAPCEO set the standard for job security for the OPS in 1996. The employer must know that AMAPCEO employees are not about to lead a retreat with concessions on job security now, and that if the employer pursues these proposals it will sacrifice any residual goodwill it has with our members for a long time.”

The other major surprise was the employer’s attempt to table the possible threat of job sanctions, which occurred literally during the very first substantive bargaining session.

To explain this, the AMAPCEO statement indicated, it is necessary to review how the negotiating framework in the OPS works. Before either AMAPCEO or the employer can move to a lockout/strike position, and before the employer can unilaterally impose different terms and conditions of employment on AMAPCEO members, the process stipulates a timetable with a number of distinct stages. One of these is that, before the right to lockout or strike is triggered, there must be an “Essential Services Agreement”, or ESA, which identifies those “essential” employees who must continue to work during any lockout or strike in order to provide essential public services.

AMAPCEO has always opposed this system of lockouts, strikes and unilateral imposition, a system that was introduced by the NDP to please OPSEU in the early 1990s. AMAPCEO has always favoured a system of dispute resolution based on fair and independent binding arbitration.

In the last round of bargaining (which concluded just one year ago in May), the employer agreed with AMAPCEO’s proposal to defer any discussions regarding an Essential Services Agreement. Ultimately, no such discussions were necessary because the parties were able to agree on a new collective agreement without the need for, or even the threat of, sanctions. AMAPCEO’s position then, and now, is that we should spend our time dealing with the substantive merits of bargaining, and not with who will work during a lockout or strike that AMAPCEO members never want to happen.

This year, however, the employer tried to table its essential service proposals during the first day of bargaining. AMAPCEO viewed this move as unnecessarily adversarial and confrontational. The only reason for the employer insisting on an Essential Services Agreement is to trigger the steps necessary to move to a lockout or a unilateral imposition or to threaten AMAPCEO with those sanctions.

AMAPCEO immediately returned the employer’s essential service proposals (contained in two large binders) to its bargaining team, and told them very clearly that AMAPCEO employees are not interested in engaging in lockouts or strikes.

At the same time that the employer was engaging in these twin bargaining antics, it was also emphasizing, in its opening statement at the bargaining table, that it wants the highest quality, cutting edge civil service. It aspires to be the employer of choice for employees. It wants to be progressive, fair, dynamic and creative. It wants to renew and revitalize the OPS for the future.

Does this employer not understand that you can’t speak like Dr. Jekyll and act like Mr. Hyde? You cannot claim that you want to become an employer of choice, and to renew the OPS for the future, while at the same time trying to claw back the rights of AMAPCEO employees and threatening us with job sanctions.

We will continue to judge this employer by what it does and by what it actually proposes, not by its glossy vision statements and bold human resource frameworks.

Meetings between the AMAPCEO and employer bargaining teams continued through April and many dates are scheduled in May. What AMAPCEO wants to do is to bargain a new collective agreement, responsibly and consistent with the employer’s own commitment to becoming an employer of choice. And if the employer acts reasonably and fairly, and consistent with its own professed values, it will find itself, as always, with a responsive and business-like partner in AMAPCEO and in all of our members.

AMAPCEO is the second-largest bargaining agent in the Ontario Public Service, representing over 8,500 professional and supervisory civil servants who work directly for the Government of Ontario in all ministries and in every region of the province. Established in 1992, AMAPCEO has established a strong record of negotiating strong and innovative collective agreements, of adopting a collegial, problem-solving approach to dispute resolution and of advocating for an apolitical professional public service as a critical component in Canada’s system of parliamentary democracy.

AMAPCEO members include policy and financial analysts, auditors, economists, program supervisors, mediators, arbitrators, nursing supervisors, senior scientists and chaplains.

For full details, and to read a copy of the AMAPCEO statement on the status of bargaining, please visit the AMAPCEO website.

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