Union calls for binding arbitration to end Saskatoon Co-op contract dispute – Saskatoon

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The union representing striking workers at Saskatoon Co-op is calling on the company to agree to binding arbitration to settle a contract dispute.

UFCW Local 1400 made the request after talks between the two sides broke down on Friday.

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At issue between the two sides is Saskatoon Co-op’s desire to introduce a second-tier wage scale.

“In the spirit of true negotiation, (we) started to bargain a second tier,” the union said in a press release.

“It provided proposals allowing for a second tier that included a bridge that provided a limited number of employees who had been working at Co-op for four years, to finally move to the main wage grid.”

Co-op said the offer made by the union substantially reduced the wage difference between new and current employees in key positions.

“We came to (Friday’s) discussions ready to make compromises because we wanted to get another offer for our employees to vote on and, hopefully, end the labour dispute,” said Saskatoon Co-op CEO Grant Wicks in a statement.

‘It was disappointing to see the union go back on an understanding we’d already reached, refuse to consider our counter-proposal and then walk away from the negotiations.”


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UFCW said the next step is to submit to binding arbitration, with both sides presenting their last offer.

“Management’s excuse that they would rather bargain is no longer credible,” the union said.

“Their repeated refusals to bargain once again leads us to invite management to participate in the process of binding arbitration.”

Co-op said UFCW has negotiated other contracts that include wage tiers.

“The union continues to push binding arbitration, but they have bargained multiple wage tier agreements with our competitors in Saskatoon without arbitration or labour disputes,” Wicks said.

“Because the proposal we wanted to share with the union is strong and includes compromises that employees have asked for, we’re still optimistic that we can work with the union to share our proposal with employees and give them a chance to vote.”


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Co-op said current employees are still being offered a two per cent annual raise, back pay, signing bonuses, and industry-competitive benefits.

Roughly 900 UFCW members walked off the job Nov. 1, 2018, after the two sides failed to reach an agreement on a new contract.

Co-op said the retail landscape has changed and a second-tier wage scale will help ensure the long-term vitality of the company.

Sixty per cent of UFCW members who voted rejected an offer by the company at the beginning of January.

Co-op said roughly 200 union members have returned to work since the strike started.

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Doctors back at the table with province as arbitration resumes

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Arbitration hearings between the province and doctors have resumed following an aborted attempt by the government to pull the plug on the process.

Negotiating teams for the health ministry and Ontario Medical Association met at a downtown hotel Tuesday, picking up where they left off before last week’s sudden and controversial move by Premier Doug Ford’s office to bring binding arbitration — underway since May — to a halt.

Doctors have been without a contract in Ontario since March 2014. Arbitration hearings with the province continue on Wednesday.
Doctors have been without a contract in Ontario since March 2014. Arbitration hearings with the province continue on Wednesday.  (Dreamstime)

Doctors have been without a contract since March 2014. The ensuing period has been tumultuous, marked by ugly infighting among doctors, a defeated ratification vote, a turnover of the OMA executive, a failed bid by the new Ford government to reach a negotiated settlement and then, last week, the province’s sudden withdrawal from arbitration and subsequent flip-flop.

The hearings are important because of the large amount of taxpayer dollars spent on physicians and because significant decisions are made about the provision of health services to patients.

The OMA, which represents Ontario’s 31,000 practising physicians, had the floor much of the day Tuesday. Its lawyers — Howard Goldblatt and Steven Barrett — countered earlier arguments put forth by the province.

Goldblatt said Ontario’s physician services budget should grow by 3.6 per cent for each of the next two years, an amount in line with previous increases.

Ontario currently spends more than $12 billion annually on doctors, or 10 per cent of the entire provincial budget.

The province maintains than an annual hike of 1.9 per cent should be enough to cover the added demands on the health system from a growing and aging population.

But Golblatt said that does not take into account extra monies needed to cover the cost of caring for more patients with chronic and complex health needs. As well, extra funding is required to pay for a growing physician workforce and new technology.

The province maintains $200 million could be saved annually by cracking down on the provision of unnecessary and inappropriate services, for example, diagnostic tests that patients do not require.

Under phase two of arbitration between the OMA and the province, set to commence next year, the issue of “relativity” is going to be addressed. Relativity refers to large pay gaps between medical specialties.

The highest paid include what are known as the “Big Three”: radiologists, cardiologists and ophthalmologists. According to government data, their compensation soared between 1991/92 and 2015/16:

  • Diagnostic radiology went up by 163 per cent to $561,053.
  • Ophthalmology jumped by 128 per cent to $649,433.
  • Cardiology increased by 95 per cent to $549,572.

During this time, inflation rose by 66 per cent.

When relativity is addressed, these three medical specialties stand to lose compensation to their lower-paid peers, including geriatricians, pediatricians, infectious disease specialists and psychiatrists.

In what appears to be an effort to head off that eventuality, physicians from the Big Three have been trying to break away from the OMA so they can negotiate their own contract with government.

Spearheading this effort is radiologist Dr. David Jacobs. In addition to being vice-president of the Ontario Association of Radiologists, he is a supporter of Ford’s.

Though this group represents only 5 per cent of doctors, the government cited the break-away efforts as the reason to withdraw from arbitration. The government said it had doubts about the OMA’s ability to represent the entire profession.

Numerous sources have told the Star it was Ford’s office that made the call to withdraw from arbitration, over the objections of Health Minister Christine Elliott and some backbenchers.

The government reversed the withdrawal decision after labour law experts charged it was illegal and physicians responded in anger.

The arbitration hearing continues on Wednesday.

Theresa Boyle is a Toronto-based reporter covering health. Follow her on Twitter: @theresaboyle

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