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Bargaining in the Broader Public Sector Conference

Toronto • December 8 - 9, 2020
Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel


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We are actively monitoring public health rules and guidelines to ensure a safe learning environment and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Attendance at in-person events will be capped, allowing physical distancing to be maintained, and we are offering remote participation options for those unable to attend in person.

In association with: http://www.library.utoronto.ca/cirhr/
 

Tuesday, December 8, 2020


Introductory remarks by Co-Chairs 9:15 AM - 9:30 AM  


Panel 1


Wreckage or Recovery? Assessing the impact of COVID-19 on the economy

9:30 AM - 10:45 AM

* Panelists to be announced

Panel Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic has precipitated the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Canadian employment numbers are the worst on record. The federal government has posted the largest deficit since World War II. Recovery appears to be contingent on the development and widespread administration of an effective vaccine, making it difficult to forecast the course of the economy. In this session, experienced economists will provide an overview of current economic conditions, explain which recovery scenarios are most likely, and explore the impact of the pandemic on the public sector. Specific questions to be addressed include the following:

  • What is the current economic situation — provincially, nationally, globally? Is this economic downturn different from others? If so, how? Is it as bad as the Great Depression?
  • Why have stock markets performed relatively well even as job losses skyrocketed, requests for mortgage, loan, and rent relief mounted, and consumer confidence plummeted? What are the practical implications of this disconnect for employers, unions, and workers?
  • Is there any more certainty to economic forecasts now compared to June, when the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) stated that the economic outlook was "highly uncertain"? Is a relatively quick recovery still possible, or is the most likely scenario now a years-long recovery or a long, uneven recovery characterized by periods of rebound followed by stagnation?
  • How does Canada's response to the pandemic-induced economic crisis compare to actions taken by other OECD countries? Based on the relative effectiveness of different approaches, can conclusions be drawn about what sorts of policies are more likely to be conducive to lasting economic recovery?
  • Is investment in the public sector necessary to promote economic recovery? How much? What type? For example, is it important to expand public services and, in so doing, expand public sector employment? What about investments in public infrastructure?
  • Does "building back better" make good economic sense? For example, do pandemic-related experiences suggest that policies that are more inclusive of non-standard workers (such as broadened employment insurance eligibility or a guaranteed annual income) are not only manageable but good for the economy as a whole? Is better public childcare an essential element in recovery? What about expanded public health coverage?
  • Do Canadian governments have the fiscal capacity to "build back better" or even rebuild at all, or must Canadian governments focus on reducing debt to "fix" the battered economy? Does the federal government have nearly infinite fiscal capacity? If it does, or even if it simply has greater fiscal capacity than the provinces, must the federal government increase transfers to the provinces? If so, should there be conditions attached to those transfers?

BREAK

10:45 AM - 11:00 AM

Tuesday, December 8, 2020


Introductory remarks by Co-Chairs 9:15 AM - 9:30 AM  


Panel 2


New Priorities in Negotiations: Bargaining in the post-COVID world

11:00 AM - 12:15 PM

* Panelists to be announced

Panel Summary

Looking forward from the thick of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, a return to business as usual does not seem to be an option. Amidst calls for a "just recovery" and for an economy that is not only rebuilt but "built back better," the federal government has committed "to build[ing] an economy that is resilient, green, and equitable for everyone." Ontario's Conservative government, on the other hand, continues to pursue privatization of certain public services and wage restraint in the broader public sector. Which priorities will predominate in post-pandemic Ontario are far from clear. In this session, experts will discuss how the policy environment is changing in the wake of the pandemic and how broader policy shifts are likely to affect bargaining in the broader public sector.

  • How has the pandemic affected labour relations in the broader public sector so far? How much bargaining on pressing issues — such as health and safety measures, access to personal protective equipment, and work-from-home protocols — has taken or is taking place outside regular bargaining procedures/cycles? Are unions and employers reaching agreements on these issues, or are they straining labour-management relations?
  • Are unions and employers in the broader public sector benefiting from pandemic-induced public support for public services? Will public support for public services endure beyond the pandemic, or will there be new demands for reduced staffing, contracting out, restructuring, reduced hours, and wage cutbacks as the governments respond to deficits and debts created by their COVID-19 responses? Might some segments of the broader public sector face intense pressure to reduce costs while others, such as health care, receive increased funding?
  • Will employment in the broader public sector be significantly and permanently altered by the pandemic? If so, how? Has the crisis been an impetus for public sector employers to increase automation? Will technology-enabled gig work proliferate in public services such as transportation? Are work-from-home arrangements and flexibility in hours and locations of work likely to continue following the pandemic? Are parties negotiating collective agreement language to deal with a "new reality" in public sector workplaces?
  • What key issues are emerging in the course of negotiating collective agreement renewals? Has information sharing (including disclosure at bargaining) suffered because of widespread uncertainty created by the pandemic? What are the most contentious demands being made?
  • Will the appalling COVID-19 fatality rate in long-term care homes result in lasting policy changes in health care? Will privatization in this growing area of health care be halted or reversed? Will the desire to prevent some of the problems caused by the use of part-time/precarious workers give employers and unions a shared interest in negotiating improved working conditions and prioritizing full-time employment?
  • How are the demands supported by the Ontario Federation of Labour to defund the police being received at the municipal level? Are municipalities likely to prioritize spending on other public services at the expense of police services? Do municipalities have the fiscal capacity to expand spending on other services without reducing police spending?

Wednesday, December 9, 2020


Introductory remarks by Co-Chairs 9:20 AM - 9:30 AM  


Panel 3


Bargaining Equality: Negotiating for workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion

9:30 AM - 10:45 AM

* Panelists to be announced

Panel Summary

The resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement has prompted many unions and employers to reflect on how they can combat systemic racism and discrimination in the workplace. At the bargaining table, workplace parties have a critical opportunity to address the concerns of equity-seeking groups and negotiate collective agreements that embody a strong shared commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. In this session, experts will provide guidance on how to begin building a more equitable workplace through collective bargaining, with a focus on the following issues:

  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of collective bargaining as a tool for addressing workplace inequalities?
  • What steps can unions and employers take to identify equity issues in their workplaces? What information should workplace parties gather to prepare for bargaining on these issues?
  • What questions should guide unions and employers in reviewing their collective agreements and bargaining proposals through an equity lens?
  • How might existing contract language and definitions be revised to ensure that they are equitable, inclusive, and reflective of a modern workforce?
  • What barriers lead to underrepresentation of equity-seeking groups at the bargaining table, and how can workplace parties address them? What strategies can unions and employers implement to support the formation of bargaining teams that are representative of their workplaces?
  • What challenges may members of equity-seeking groups encounter in bargaining processes? How can unions and employers promote the full participation of diverse bargaining team members in negotiations and ensure that their voices are heard?
  • How might workplace parties adopt more collaborative approaches to bargaining on issues pertaining to diversity, equity, and inclusion?
  • How can unions and employers measure the effectiveness of negotiated programs or provisions on equity issues? How can contract language be structured to facilitate monitoring and enforcement?
  • How can unions generate membership, employer, and community support for bargaining priorities related to diversity, equity, and inclusion?

BREAK

10:45 AM - 11:00 AM

Wednesday, December 9, 2020


Introductory remarks by Co-Chairs 9:20 AM - 9:30 AM  


Panel 4


Austerity Measures: When are they justified? What are the limits?

11:00 AM - 12:15 PM

* Panelists to be announced

Panel Summary

In November 2019, the Ford government passed Bill 124, the Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act, 2019, which imposed a 1 percent cap on annual public sector compensation increases over a three-year period. Unions quickly responded by bringing a Charter challenge, arguing that the legislation violates the constitutional right to engage in a meaningful process of collective bargaining. What do recent legal decisions tell us about the limits of a government's powers to implement wage restraint legislation as an austerity measure? Will Bill 124 survive a Charter challenge?

In this session, leading experts will review recent legal challenges to legislated wage restraints and assess their impact on Bill 124, addressing issues such as the following:

  • Are there any lessons can be extracted from recent legal challenges to wage restraint legislation?
  • How do courts view legislation that effectively removes monetary issues from the scope of negotiations? Does legislation that inhibits unions' ability to trade off monetary benefits for non?monetary enhancements effectively render meaningful collective bargaining impossible?
  • Could the COVID-19 pandemic provide a valid reason for employers in the broader public sector to usher in changes such as pay freezes, reduced hours, layoffs, redeployment of workers, or other work reorganizations? Will interest arbitrators be more willing to consider ability-to-pay arguments in light of the economic impact of the pandemic?
  • What do recent court decisions tell us about the likelihood that Bill 124 will survive a Charter challenge? Is the Ontario government currently facing the type of fiscal crisis that was found lacking in the recent Manitoba Federation of Labour v. The Government of Manitoba decision?
  • Can the Ford government successfully argue that the wage restraint measures in Bill 124 were necessary given that it also cut taxes and reduced other sources of revenue in the spring 2019 budget? Will a government's desire to balance the budget qualify as a sufficiently pressing and substantive objective that would justify the infringement of a Charter right?
  • What other challenges have been made to Bill 124? For example, differences of interpretation arising out of section 10 (restricting wage rate increases to an annual 1 percent) and section 11 (restricting non-wage-related compensation increases)?

CONFERENCE ENDS

12:15 PM

Keynote Speakers


Monday, December 7, 2020


Breakfast 8:00 AM - 9:00 AM  

Negotiate, Mediate, Advocate: Practical strategies for concluding a collective agreement

9:00 AM - 4:00 PM

Workshop Summary

Achieving a successful outcome in negotiation, mediation, and arbitration requires skill and strategy and the acumen to adapt your approach to the forum. In this interactive, full-day program, expert workshop leaders will share strategies and tactics that work in each arena and explain how to adjust your game plan as you move from bargaining to mediation to arbitration.

You should register for this hands-on training session if you want to

  • understand the key considerations in planning a bargaining strategy;
  • best position yourself for mediation or arbitration;
  • communicate clearly and effectively to the other side, the mediator/arbitrator, and the public;
  • learn how to use a mediator to close the deal; and
  • adapt bargaining positions into written submissions for mediation and arbitration.

VIEW THE WORKSHOP AGENDA



Thursday, December 10, 2020


Breakfast 8:00 AM - 9:00 AM  

Conducting Effective Workplace Investigations: Intensive training for employers and unions

9:00 AM - 4:00 PM



CPD


Click here to find out more information regarding CPD and the hour requirements in your province.