OPSEU/SEFPO is hailing Arbitrator Nimal Dissanayake’s ruling that four articles in the OPS Unified collective agreement defended by the Employer violate human rights legislation. The ruling concerned two requirements regarding employees receiving, or considering, long-term insurance protection (LTIP).
“This is just another example of what a strong union can do for working people,” said OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “We have the resources and clout to stick with something and see it through, even if it takes years.”
The union launched its grievance against the requirements on May 25, 2018, and the decision was handed down March 8, 2021. One requirement forced union members receiving or applying for LTIP to provide their earliest eligibility retirement date for an unreduced pension. They also had to reveal the amount of credit they had in the OPSEU/SEFPO Pension Plan.
The union said the employer was discriminating on the basis of disability and age, which violates article 3 of the OPSEU/SEFPO Central Unified Collective Agreement. The union also said the employer breached the Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC) and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
A second anachronistic requirement in the collective agreement made members with 30 years of credit in the pension plan, or who are eligible to retire to an unreduced pension – whichever is later – either retire or pay their own pension contributions. Again, the union said this was discriminatory on the basis of age and disability.
In his 48-page decision, Arbitrator Dissanayake upheld the union’s policy grievance. He said articles 42.3.2, 42.3.3, 70.3.2 and 70.3.3 violated section 15(1) of the Charter and section 5(1) of the OHRC. As such, he ordered the offending articles struck from the collective agreement.
Further, since these same articles are also part of the OPS Corrections collective agreement, they will almost certainly be struck from that contract as well.
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer, said the ruling sends a clear message to employers not to discriminate against older individuals on LTIP. “The employer tried to rewind us back to 2010, the last year mandatory retirement was legal,” he said. “They tried to bring it back under cover of LTIP requirements. And they used discrimination on the basis of age and ability to boot.
“The arbitrator saw right through the employer’s tricks and slapped them down. It’s great news for our 30,000 OPS Unified members, but also our 9,000 Corrections members,” added Almeida, himself a correctional officer.
Thomas said the union put a lot of time, money and effort into the grievance – but it was worth it. “Every so often you get an employer who thinks they can trample the human rights of our members, forgetting who represents them,” he said. “There was no way we were going to let our members be victimized this way. We were absolutely determined to fight it, whatever the cost.
“So this is a big victory for every worker in Ontario,” he added. “Because you just never know when you might get sick or have an accident and have to go on long-term sick leave.”