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Guild seeks appointment of provincial conciliator at TVO

Earlier today, your CMG bargaining committee at TVO requested the appointment of a provincial conciliator to assist in reaching a new collective agreement.

We had hoped an agreement could be reached with TVO without third party assistance. Unfortunately, it has become obvious that success was highly unlikely given the employer’s locked-in position on several critical issues. In the last two rounds of bargaining with TVO, conciliation was used to reach a negotiated settlement.

While TVO has outlined plans for a bold new future, it seems unwilling to ensure its employees have some assurances they, too, will be allowed to grow and prosper with the organization.

Several key issues remain unresolved; here are a few worth noting:

Layoff and recall
It’s not news that TVO is going through significant change. It is asking employees to do more with less, to take greater risks, to reach further, to work in ways they’ve never worked before and on types of work not anticipated when the bargaining unit was created. Yet the employer seeks to hold on to antiquated language when it comes to protecting employees’ rights at the time of a downsizing, isolating employees by department, component and job title. Meanwhile, in terms of your everyday work, you can and will be asked to perform any nature of work.

The employer’s approach to downsizing would make it very difficult, if not impossible, to protect your job, wages, pensions, benefits, etc. This simply cannot be tolerated. The Guild proposal is straight-forward. Employees should have the right to seniority protection in a layoff scenario. The only test that should have to be met is “can they do the work that is remaining?”

Changes in the way work is done at TVO are also significantly affecting the amount and nature of work being performed by Guild members. Employees are being asked to do what they’ve always done plus additional web-based and other duties, often without the necessary training or a reasonable assessment of the time required. The Guild is seeking a process to discuss workload issues and to resolve workload problems. The employer is unwilling.

Work-life balance
Along with greater workplace demands, employees are struggling more and more to meet family needs. In some cases, significant commute times and work demands are making it impossible for Guild members to give appropriate attention to their children and/or needs of aging parents. The Guild has proposed language that will allow and encourage alternate work methods including work from home, compressed and reduced work weeks and job sharing, to name a few. These alternate work arrangements are common place in many settings. They permit employees time to deal with life issues, allow greater flexibility in the way work is done and recognize the importance of employees and life beyond the workplace. Additionally, there is mounting evidence linking more flexible work arrangements to better overall morale, reduced sick leave, greater job satisfaction and higher productivity. The employer apparently has no interest.

The paradox: while the organization sets a bold new course for itself, it is unwilling to stretch itself even slightly to assist and protect employees in this new world. We think that is regrettable and unacceptable.

Conciliation: what does it mean?
In the simplest of terms, conciliation means we are asking the Ministry of Labour to assist us in reaching a new deal. A professional conciliator will be appointed to review the outstanding issues, with the goal of resolving disputed matters and avoiding a potential work stoppage.

The appointment of a conciliator sets the clock in motion. The conciliation officer is required to call the parties together within 14 days to attempt to resolve the dispute. Should the parties still be unable to reach an agreement, the conciliation officer will advise the Minister of Labour. The Minister could then extend time limits, appoint a conciliation board or mail what is called a “no board” notice, which legally puts the parties in a strike/lockout position. The parties are free to take such action on the 17th day after the notice is given.

Strike vote
At present, there is no immediate plan to take a strike vote. If needed, Guild members will hold a secret ballot vote; more than 50% of voters must approve a strike mandate.

It is our sincere hope that a work stoppage can be avoided. However, it has become painfully obvious to us that the current collective agreement does not meet our needs. We require significant changes. We will keep you informed as the conciliation process progresses. Questions and comments can be sent to any member of the bargaining committee.

In Solidarity,
Carol Burtin Fripp
David Hawkins
George Pyron
Dan Oldfield ? CMG Senior Staff Representative

Important note: With the creation of two separate organizations for TVO and TFO, we are now negotiating two separate collective agreements. Today’s application for conciliation affects only bargaining with TVO. An update for TFO employees will be issued shortly.

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