Ontario Compensation Employees Union

CUPE Local 1750 was Chartered in 1974
Learning the Ropes – the early years: The period between 1974 and 1985 could in many ways be described as the Grenville Jones era for Local 1750 members. Grenville Jones was a National staff representative that came to CUPE from OPSEU (Ontario Public Service Employees Union) which was to our great advantage since he was most familiar with CECBE (the Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act).

In addition to the many groundbreaking provisions in our collective agreements, Jones will best be remembered for a philosophy or approach to bargaining which enabled Local 1750 to address the dramatic imbalances which existed in our wage scales particularly at for the entry level positions. In our 1976-77 Collective Agreement we were restricted by the Anti Inflation Board (AIB) federal government wage controls to an overall increase of 8%. However, by negotiating flat rate dollar amounts for the different salary scales, members achieved some wage parity and saw the base rate for some entry-level clerical positions rise by 18%.

In our 1978-80 contract, a two-year arbitration award, the arbitrator awarded the union’s proposal of a percentage/plus minimum, wage increase. Overall this worked out to a 6.5% increase in the first year worked in order to correct the low wages before we gained the right to collectively bargain. Again this was a creative and unique approach for achieving fair wage increases in a bargaining unit of diverse classifications and wage rates.

We are indebted to Gren Jones for his skill in dealing with compulsory arbitration, and for his many years of hard work on behalf of this local.

During the initial years of the local the first union President, Randy Millage was elected in 1978 followed by Bob Lemon from 1978 to 1979 and Lloyd Deering from 1979 to 1980. In 1980 Fran Robertson became our President and during her one year tenure she lead a much needed dues campaign to turn around the locals finances. The local elected their fifth President, Ralph Carnovale late in 1980. He remained in the role until 1986 when he moved on to become a CUPE National staff representative working with various locals during his career as a Union Activist.

The Incremental System / Wage Grid One of the major gains or breakthroughs which was achieved by Local 1750 was the introduction of an incremental system in 1977. It was also a graphic indication of the inequalities which existed in our wage system at the time. Many members who had been in their jobs for five years still had not reached their maximum wage rate. The introduction of the incremental wage grip the union was able to move 75% of our bargaining unit members to their maximum on the wage scale.

Organizational & Tech Change (1977 to 1990)

Some might say it was because we were gazing into our crystal ball that we were actually able to negotiate breakthrough changes in the collective agreement to protect jobs in the event of technological change. It was with some foresight that we established a process to re-deploy workers whose jobs were eliminated as a result of technological change in 1977.

These provisions were later enhanced (1985) to include organizational change that eliminates jobs. Between 1987 and 1990 our organizational & technological change language was put to the test when nearly 1,400 of our 2,000 members underwent redundancy, displacement or significant change to their jobs. The entire province went through a major upheaval as a result of organizational and technological changes. Though many employees changed jobs, were displaced or bumped no one was laid off. In fact many of these employees remain with the organization to this day.

In 1986 the Local also underwent massive change and conducted a successful province wide referendum to change our Constitution to establish representation by units in each geographic location. Unit Coordinators were then elected by their local membership and the local held its first biennial convention in June 1986. It was at this convention that Fran Robertson returned as President. Fran led bargaining and delivered a 2 year Collective Agreement without arbitration. At the time the local did not have the right to strike.

In September 1987 a special convention was held to elect our seventh President, Carol Haffenden who remained in the role for a two year term. By 1989 the local was once again faced with major organizational changes arising out of a Royal commission and a return to the bargaining table. The commission lead to organizational changes resulting in the creation of integrated service units which de-centralized vocational rehabilitation, claims and health care. As a result of the organizational changes the local’s biennial convention was delayed until December 1989. At this convention Frank Mucci was elected President and Carole became Chief Steward. Frank later resigned in 1994 and was succeeded by Yvonne Carr.

At the same time bargaining had broken down and the union filed for arbitration. The case was heard on December 13, 1989 and the union was awarded improved job security language, income protection and relocation expenses. The employer was able to remove irregular hour’s premiums (10% extra pay in lieu of overtime) for Vocational and Social Rehabilitation personnel.

Joint Job Evaluation:

In 1980 the union bargained for Joint Job Evaluation (JJE) in order to gain a principled approach to assign wages that reflected the work assigned. When negotiations broke down with our employer negotiations moved to Arbitration as we did not have the right to strike. The Arbitration decision order the parties to implement a JJE system. However our employer contested the Arbitration award and forced a judicial review in 1981. In the end the Board was ordered to implement the Arbitration decision giving birth to JJE. The decision directed our employer to work with the Union and establish an apolitical committee with three (3) employer and three (3) union representatives to rate and evaluate all BU jobs at the WSIB. Despite the order our employer delayed implementation for another 14 years.

The Social Contract

In 1993 the NDP Government of Ontario was faced with a $12 billion dollar deficit. Premier Bob Rae requested $2 billion in wage cuts within the civil service. When both of Ontario’s largest unions, OPSEU and CUPE boycotted the talks, the government imposed a wage freeze and mandatory unpaid days of leave for civil servants, which became known as Rae Days. The initiative was mainly based around a forced twelve days of unpaid leave for all civil service workers. The Social Contract also re-opened collective agreements of all public unions and froze the wages of all civil workers. In the end the government saved $1.95 billion and prevented public employee layoffs.

Local 1750 were successful in limiting our Rae Days in 1993 to three, and to just one in 1994 and zero in 1995. It was directly as a result of savings achieved by attrition of bargaining unit positions through retirement and voluntary exit packages. To offset any loss in pay members were able to use their saved attendance credits to offset the unpaid Rae Days. In the end the WCB was able to meet their savings target of $3.1 million.

1995: Entering an Era of Change

In 1995, the Tories were elected in Ontario and with the change of government; there were also changes to the Workers Compensation Board. Glen Wright was appointed as the new chair. The Tories immediately expressed their dissatisfaction with public sector unions and a wage freeze was imposed. Within the Local that year the Joint Job Evaluation Committee was finally implemented and the task of writing the job descriptions was completed.

February 1996 brought more change to the Local with the inclusion of adjudicators as a result of a Grievance Settlement Board decision. As a result the local virtually doubled in size. The inclusion of nearly 1200 positions including Adjudicators was made possible in part by the NDP government’s changes to the Ontario Labour Relations Act which enabled many former non-bargaining classifications to join the Union.

In the fall of 1996 Yvonne Carr resigned as President of the Local and a convention was called in October. Paul Simourd was elected to the position and held the office for 6 years until the union was placed under administration in the fall of 2002.

The Tory government continued to antagonize public sector unions and to cut social services within the province. Members of the Local participated in the massive Days of Action Protests in several communities that year were thousands of workers would take to the streets to shut down a targeted city for a day. This form of political protest was later found to be illegal strike action by the Ontario Labour Board.

Bill 99 was introduced in the legislature during the fall session of 1996. The legislation changed the organizations name from Workers Compensation Board (WCB) to Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). Due to legislative change Vocational Rehabilitation services were privatized thus eliminating nearly 400 jobs and the stand alone Prevention agency was to merge with WSIB. In addition WSIB planned to force all Adjudicators to reapply for their jobs in order to eliminate more staff.

In February 1997, our employer announced a new Service Delivery Model would be implemented to eliminate hundreds of union jobs and change hundreds of others. The President of the Local was advised of the potential for massive job loss for bargaining unit employees and began a consultation process with the membership to explain the threat. The union continued to fight for its members and at the same time was embroiled in intensive negotiations to achieve Pay Equity.

1998: Project Placement

During Paul Simourds tenure he championed a new approach to labour relations called Interest Based Bargaining which required the parties to work proactively toward solutions to problems rather than remaining in a reactive role. The approach resulted in Project Placement; an initiative that prevented the termination of nearly 600 employees and resulting in organizational change for 1200 employees who were squeeze into 1000 changed jobs with no layoffs.

1998 was also the year when WSIB announced the demise of the area offices. The union swung into action, making this information public and management at the Board backed down. As a result of the actions of the Local, the area offices were no longer on the chopping block.

During collective bargaining in the spring of 1999, the parties rewrote the entire collective agreement. After three months of grueling bargaining, the Collective Agreement was overwhelmingly endorsed by 90% of the members. The agreement was also noteworthy in that the union committed themselves to continue to work on issues not resolved at the bargaining table: issues such as the Expense Policy, Disability Management Program and Attendance credits.

2003 & Forward:

For a brief period the Local was placed under administration in 2003. Several members of the executive were not invited to remain in active roles with the union. During administration the Local lead a successful campaign to remove a huge privatization threat when the WSIB hired Accenture to identify outsourcing options. In making the recommendation to lift administration our National Representative noted that since the Executive Board elections in January 2004 Council and the Executive have worked well together, demonstrating that Administration was no longer needed. National formally lifted administration in June 2004 (1750 ran its own affairs since January 2004) noting that many of the systemic and financial concerns that had created the necessity for administration had been addressed.

During administration the local’s constitution was overhauled. Union Officers were no longer elected by delegates at the Biennial Convention in favour of giving every member a chance to vote. Harry Goslin became the locals eleventh President following the first Province wide campaign in January 2004 and has held the office since that time. Since then the Local’s accomplishments confirm our focus on professional representation of our membership.

Soon after Harry’s election the union increased in size again with the inclusion of approximately 250 new members resolving nearly 30 years of dispute and bringing the total membership to 3500. The Local also negotiated the placement of over 260 employees affected by technological change that drastically reduced word processing jobs and health care data entry as a result of the provider bill approval system (PBAS). The impacts included a plan to eliminate and centralize 117 regional jobs. Had this occurred layoffs would have been unavoidable. The Union conducted a massive year lone Province wide campaign which ended the threat of centralization and caused the organization to go over compliment thus eliminating the threat of layoff.

Our 2005 bargaining team negotiated the 2005-2008 collective agreement which included the countries leading example of workload language, enshrined pension language, significant increases to employment benefits, focus on valuing internal staff for promotional opportunities and a wage increase of nearly 8%. The contract was ratified with a yes vote of 89%.

In 2006 WSIB introduced a zero administrative budget which lead to impacts on bargaining unit jobs. Despite the budget cuts jobs were saved and no employee was laid off.

In 2007 the Union negotiated an organizational change agreement to implement a new service delivery model which altered the jobs of 1600 employees with a no layoff provision. The agreement was also used to attain redress for 6 job classifications including Case Managers who were denied a salary increase resulting from non-census in the job evaluation process. The agreement was ratified by all bargaining members by a vote of 72%.

The 2008 to 2011 Collective Agreement was approved with 87% support delivering an 8.8% wage increase, Health Care benefit improvements along with gains in job security, travel and business expenses, a new JJE dispute resolution mechanism and career progression improvements.

The 2011 to 2016 Collective Agreement was endorsed with a yes vote of 80%. This round of negotiations lasted over 6 months and was perhaps the most challenging session in the history of the Local. The Provincial government imposed a mandate of zero net compensation increases for two years along with a policy to eliminate attendance credit programs with gratuity payouts. Despite the challenges the Unions bargaining team delivered a 10% wage increase, job security improvements, a new flexible wellness days program that allows up to 5 unused days to be banked as vacation time, a new short term disability program that extended coverage from 30 days to 130 days with wage replacement increased from 2/3rds to 75% and new flex work arrangements including a 5/4 provision.

Starting in 2010 with the government appointment of a new President and CEO labour relations began to change for the worse as employees increasingly came under attack. When the goals of the Provincial Government and the Organization changed the workplace went from an era of trust where communication was regular and ongoing to one with little or no communication. Grievances shot up from an annual average of 45 to over 450. The union quickly adopted a traditional approach to labour relations, retained expert legal counsel, delivering wins for the members and taking political action to preserve jobs.

2012 JJE Agreement:

The union completed negotiations to implement a new Joint Job Evaluation Plan and Pay Equity Plan. The results delivered salary increases for over 800 employees, no loss in pay for any member and new pay scales that moved hundreds more to their maximum salary more quickly. Overall the agreement delivered $10 million including $900 thousand in pay equity adjustments.

Job Impacts – No Layoff Record:

  • 1987 – 1990 – 1400 of the Union’s 2000 members were impacted by organizational and technological change resulting in redundancies and bumps
  • 1998 Project Placement (Vocational Rehabilitation outsourced and Prevention mandate moved to WSIB) – 1200 jobs altered and cut down to 1000
  • 2002 – 2004 Document Creation & PBAS – Eliminated 260 + jobs
  • 2005 & 2006 Zero budgets – Saved 300 jobs (helped find savings)
  • 2007 New Service Delivery Model – 1600 jobs altered – Prevented job loss for over 200
  • 2008 & 2009 Budget over runs – Helped find savings and service improvements – 140 job impacts (transitioned to other jobs)
  • 2010 & 2011 Prevention mandate relocated from WSIB to the Ministry of Labour due to Bill 160 – 82 jobs impacted.
  • 2012 over 525 jobs eliminated – 420 bargaining unit – 116 Non bargaining unit (includes 56 terminations)