02/14/2013

Today AMO launched the next phase of the Ontario municipal sector’s call for improvements to the Province’s interest arbitration system.

AMO’s Board has been working on finding measures that make sense – that are practical and workable but require political will.  An Interest Arbitration Checklist (live link here checklist) sets out the measures that would make the system more efficient, accountable and transparent.  Accountability and transparency do not really exist today.  Local community economic and fiscal conditions seem to carry no weight.  Interest arbitrators who decide wages for essential service workers – one of the largest components of a municipal government’s operational costs need to be guided by fiscal health criteria and be able to explain their decisions.  We are not asking for massive change but rather a system that is more than simply replicating pay raises and benefit packages from community to community and sector to sector. 

At a Queen’s Park news conference this morning, Russ Powers, AMO President, was joined by Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion, Chair of the Large Urban’s Mayor Caucus (LUMCO) and the Chair of the Niagara Region, Gary Burroughs, who was representing the Mayors and Regional Chairs of Ontario (MARCO).  The value municipal governments place on emergency services is not diminished by the need for a more efficient, accountable and transparent interest arbitration system. The professional training and responsibilities of emergency services personnel are recognized within a municipal government’s overall pay structure, relative to other municipal employees.  It is only right for their pay raises to reflect the economic realities of the community and to be comparable with others who work for the same community. These changes do not guarantee any specific outcome.  They do ensure free, reasonable negotiations and a clear understanding of the arbitrator’s rationale for an award.  

Late last year, we asked our members to join us in messaging about the need for change.  We saw several legislative proposals tabled in 2012 to make changes to the interest arbitration system – so at the very least, there is an acknowledgement by both the Government and opposition that the system needs improvements.  
We are looking to work with all parties to make sure that changes to the interest arbitration improve the process without directing any particular outcomes, but also deliver timely decisions that are reasoned and understandable. 

AMO, on behalf of the municipal sector, is looking to roll up our sleeves together with all the parties in the Ontario Legislature, to make sure that we make meaningful changes to the arbitration system by improving its efficiency, accountability and transparency.   

What can you do locally?  Continue the messaging.  Use the Checklist and other supporting materials to discuss this with local opinion leaders. Get their interest and support and let us know about it – and let MPPs know too.  Your continued support on this significant issue is required and valued.

Here is what we have produced so far:  

  • News Release
  • Interest Arbitration Checklist
  • 3 Backgrounders (Overview, Municipal Experiences, Fiscal Impact)
  • ESSC overview of Interest Arbitration Legislation (Bill 55, Bill 121, Proposed Respecting Collective Bargaining Act, AMO/ESSC’s proposed legislation).