Local 345, representing 245 office and clerical workers at Peterborough Regional Health Centre, is celebrating after receiving an arbitration award that brings them into line with other hospital office and clerical workers across Ontario. The bargaining unit's collective agreement expired September 28, 2009.
The Employer would not agree to any compensation increases, and argued in front of an interest board of arbitration chaired by Richard Brown that the state of the provincial economy warranted a wage freeze for these OPSEU members. A majority of the Board disagreed, noting the pattern had already been set provincially for clerical workers and also noting that such an award would create an unfair disparity.
Writing for the majority, Arbitrator Brown made the following observations: "The employer proposed a wage freeze based in part on ability to pay and the state of the provincial economy. Even assuming such factors would warrant the denial of any wage increase, the resulting burden should be shared equitably among all unionized employees at the hospital. As there has been no wage freeze for other bargaining units during the relevant period, we are not prepared to freeze wages for this bargaining unit based on ability to pay or the state of the economy."
The Board awarded a 2% increase in each year of a three year term as well as improvements in bereavement leave, shift premiums, vacation, benefits and compensation for last minute shift changes.
Local President Linda Matteau was elated. "The bargaining team and the Research Officers all did their homework and made an excellent case. The past three years of waiting for arbitration, surviving the hospital improvement plan cuts of 2011 and the budget cuts of 2012 were very hard on morale within the bargaining unit, but now there is renewed life going forward."