This week, Ontario Medical Association (OMA) members will be asked to vote on the tentative OMA-Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care Binding Arbitration Framework (BAF). As with all democratic processes, I would encourage all OMA members to express their opinion.
After years of failed negotiations, discord, and significant leadership changes at the OMA, the parties have signalled their interest in trying to nail down what has been a controversial issue, and that is, the OMA’s long-standing position that binding arbitration is an important conceptual underpinning for the negotiations process. After years of this being a sticking point, it’s encouraging to see that the negotiating teams from both government and OMA have developed a tentative framework.
As health reporter Kelly Grant outlines in a recent Globe and Mail column, “the agreement says that, within 30 days of talks commencing, the two sides will try to agree on one person to act as both a mediator and arbitrator, unless the parties decide the roles should be separated. The arbitrator, who will have the final say on a new contract, will be the chair of a three-member arbitration board that will also include panelists appointed by the OMA and the government.”
Further stipulations include the notion that physician compensation needs to be “fair and reasonable” and that in making a final decision, the arbitrator can consider the economic situation in Ontario.
To me, there is a clear signal that both parties – the OMA and the government – are making an earnest attempt to get back to the table and strike a deal that would see an end to what has been an unsettling few years.
However, not all groups are happy. Concerned Ontario Doctors have argued against the tentative binding arbitration framework. They argue that the framework is flawed, doesn’t include a mechanism for the recovery of unilateral clawbacks, and has expanded the definition of a strike, amongst various other concerns.
My personal view is to strongly support a “yes” vote for the tentative BAF. As I indicated in a previous blog, the most important aspect in my mind is that the parties need to get back to the table. It now appears as if there is a strong will on both sides to do just that. Creating opposition to a BAF is, in my view, ill-conceived and counterproductive.
As such, I am extremely hopeful that the framework will be ratified, and the parties can begin to work together. And with goodwill on both sides, at long last, an agreement between the province and its doctors will emerge.
To my fellow OMA members, no matter what your position on this is, please vote by June 17th. And, if you would like to share your thoughts on the BAF, please do so in the comments below, or drop by the Macklem House; my door is always open.