While the Drummond Commission talks about the need for recruitment and retention of health professionals and “leaders”, much of the rest of the Commission’s labour relations recommendations may send health professionals off in search of greener pastures.
Drummond avoids the question as to what happens when Ontario brings down the austerity hammer while other provinces, such as Alberta, are rushing to enhance their health systems? Simple logic would suggest that doctors, nurses, lab techs, therapists and other professionals in high demand may all be learning the lyrics to Gordon Lightfoot’s “Alberta Bound” real soon.
Is this where McGuinty really wants to go after creating HealthForce Ontario to plan HR needs?
Drummond says wage freezes are ineffective because of the catch-up that follows, but recommends the government provide a zero budget increase for wage costs, forcing employers to find efficiencies to offset any settlements above zero.
This is a continuation of McGuinty’s wage restraint plan. The question is, will workers tolerate it to 2018? Not likely.
The Commission also goes after bumping rights, suggesting they impede efficiency. While they call for modifications, they never explain how losing experienced workers in favour of new workers would actually enhance efficiency. This does encourage employers to usher out workers who are at the top of their scale in favour of those who have yet to earn any of the benefits of seniority.
Whereas most health care providers do not have the right to strike, the system defaults to binding arbitration when the two sides fail to come to an agreement. While this has served the province reasonably well, Drummond is suggesting the system should be stacked a lot more in favour of the employer.
That includes challenging the independence of the process by creating a tribunal to “maintain and manage” a roster of arbitrators. How can you be “independent” if you have to answer to a tribunal? This is a clever ruse intended to put pressure on arbitrators to come up with decisions that better suit public sector employers.
If that’s not enough, Drummond wants to “develop specific and well-defined objective criteria that interest arbitrators would be required to account for in formulating their awards/decisions.” The Commission report goes on to suggest “ability to pay” criteria should be broadened to include economic and fiscal environment, and productivity criteria.
Having rigged the process, Drummond then feels more amalgamation and privatization would be possible given there would be less of a concern over successor rights. In language that may not have been out-of-place in the Caterpillar board rooms, Drummond reminds us that “inherited agreements do not live forever; provisions can be accepted initially and bargained differently when they come up for renewal.”
The Commission recommends reducing the number of bargaining units, particularly in the broader public sector. He never explains how this fits in an increasingly privatized environment that might be reluctant to have an external body determine how much workers get paid without taking into consideration their desire to expand profit margins.
In bargaining he expects public sector employers to negotiate for flexible arrangements to allow for the movement of people and the ability to “address underperforming employees and areas that are no longer priorities or where the service could be provided better by another entity.”
Despite all the talk of restraint, Drummond wants to provide “leaders” – including managers – with “appropriate incentives” through the reward structure. He specifically says the temptation to suspend managers’ bonuses during restraint should be resisted.
In fact, he calls for “significant bonuses” to managers who are seen as exceeding their job requirements. He points out health care as one sector that has already implemented performance incentives.
Of course, the question arises who sets the criteria for the managers to achieve such bonuses. Recently we discovered that some CEOs did not even have to meet the previous year’s performance levels to claim a bonus.
Clearly, Drummond has not forgotten his comrades in the one per cent.