Last week, we learned that the OMA Board endorsed a tentative binding arbitration agreement (BA) with the Ontario government. A general meeting of members has been called for June 17th when OMA members will vote on the tentative “framework appendix for negotiations, meditation and arbitration” (Framework Appendix or FA).
This is important news for our profession and is the result of the strong support from Ontario doctors who voted for BA as one of the 3 resolutions passed last August; hard work by grassroots organisations, and the renewal that has begun to take hold at OMA Council and the OMA Board. In combination, these joint physician efforts caused the Wynne government to reverse its opposition to granting Ontario doctors with the long desired right to BA.
Now that this important building block for fair negotiations is available, it is incumbent on all doctors to ensure that the BA methodology is done correctly and not be some clever new approach to grind the same MOH agenda. The BA documents were not accompanied by an independent third party review to help doctors understand what they were being asked to vote on. Many doctors have said they do not fully understand the implications of the BA proposal, while others expressed concerns about some of the features they did not expect would be included.
Mr. Andrew Lokan, a leading constitutional labour law expert, was asked to provide an assessment of the proposed BA agreements in the context of how this compares with other BA agreements and how well this proposal would work for Ontario doctors. It raises a number of issues that go beyond what one would normally expect to see in a BA framework that he felt doctors should be aware of and carefully consider. These include:
- The perpetual entrenchment of the OMA as the bargaining agent for all Ontario physicians with no alternative representation mechanism if this BA model does not work out.
- The OMA’s exposure to conflicts within the profession arising from it playing a co-management role with MOH for the Physician Services Budgets and expenditures.
- The permanent entrenchment of Mediation/Arbitration with the same Chairperson, versus having the roles divided to ensure greater transparency.
- The unusual inclusion of specific criteria for arbitration, including the permanent inclusion of relativity as an item while being silent on other issues of key interest to doctors such as the restricted entry of new medical graduates.
- Future exposure to the arbitration of compensation for CMPA coverage.
To read Mr. Lokan’s memo outlining his views, Click Here:
Other issues already raised by doctors include:
- How is the co-management aspect of BA different to what doctors strongly rejected last year?
- How does the Ontario BA model compare to what Ontario doctors had in 1991 and what other provincial doctors currently have across Canada?
- How will conflicts be resolved within the OMA without any formal and fair internal dispute resolution mechanism being in place and the lack of full OMA governance reform?
- Has the time arrived for doctors to be represented by more than one organization to reduce the conflict concerns?
- Is it well understood that doctors may never vote on a PSA again if bilateral negotiations always default to arbitrated settlements?
- Can the Ontario government be trusted to bargain in good faith under BA or will it renege?
- Will this result in a hard cap on the physician pool and therefore not address key issues facing doctors dealing with increasing patient needs?
- Has adequate time been allotted for doctors to fully understand the issues before they have to vote?
- What other details have not been shared with the membership?
The Coalition of Ontario Doctors strongly encourages all doctors to consider their options before voting on June 17th. Securing a binding arbitration framework that is fair to all doctors is essential to restoring the broken trust and repairing the damage done to our organization by the 2016 tPSA debacle. We should only accept a tentative BA that protects the rights of all OMA members and does not enshrine unusual additions to a normal BA framework.
We have come too far to settle for anything less than a binding arbitration framework that works for all doctors.
The Coalition will be seeking further clarity regarding the many unanswered questions and will provide further comment and opinion prior to voting and the general meeting.
Coalition of Ontario Doctors