TORONTO – Ontario’s Liberal government is offering a second group of civil servants a deal, without demanding any concessions, that would extend their contracts past the next election.
The offer to the union that represents many professionals in the public service comes shortly after a similar offer was made to the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents about 35,500 public servants and correctional staff.
Both tentative deals extend contracts for four years and come with 7.5-per-cent raises.
The Association of Management, Administrative and Professional Crown Employees of Ontario’s current collective agreement is set to expire March 31, 2018 and extending the contracts to 2022 would ensure no potentially contentious bargaining in the months before the June 2018 election.
The presidents of both unions have said they suspect the offers are related to that vote.
“I think it’s maybe some wise political strategy to ensure that groups like labour organizations are satisfied to some extent and at least not the opposite when they’re within a year of their election mandate,” said AMAPCEO president Dave Bulmer.
Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown said “it’s no coincidence” these offers are happening with the election a year away.
Bulmer said the contract extension offers stability for its 13,000 public service professionals – such as policy analysts, IT specialists, scientists and economists – and would provide for fair compensation increases with “absolutely no concessions.”
Treasury Board President Liz Sandals said the last round of bargaining was “stressful” for all involved because of the government’s net zero environment – giving raises only if the increases were offset by concessions elsewhere.
“This time around we’ve got a little bit more flexibility because we’ve been able to have a balanced budget,” she said.
AMAPCEO members have had wage freezes in four of the past six years.
Sandals said it’s not unusual to renegotiate contracts early, but OPSEU said government officials invited them to a routine meeting and presented them with a surprise extension offer.
AMAPCEO said its offer from the government was “sudden,” as it expected to begin bargaining in early 2018 and hadn’t even ratified a bargaining team yet. They negotiated with the government for about a day on the rollover offer, the union said.
There are no other such conversations ongoing with public sector unions, Sandals said, but if another group approaches the government to get an extension, she is open to discussing it.
AMAPCEO members are set to vote on ratifying the tentative deal from June 23-27, with the results to be announced on June 28.
The possible AMAPCEO and OPSEU deals follow the Liberal government’s successful offering to teachers and education workers of two-year extensions that came with four-per-cent raises and more than $275 million in additional funding.
Bulmer said he wasn’t surprised the government’s offer came with no demands for concessions, since that has been the case with the other recent contract extensions.
“If we had been singled out it would have been a bit of a surprise,” he said. “But in more typical bargaining there’s usually a little bit more of an ask.”