Ontario docs are leaving – patients have trouble finding good doctors

{November 20, 2012}   A vote in favour of seniority – and against the Ontario doctor deal



Written by Dr. Mike Goodwin on November 19, 2012 for CanadianHealthcareNetwork.ca

Perhaps the most important of several reasons why I will vote against the tentative Ontario Medical Association-Ontario Ministry of Health Physicians Services Agreement is the abandonment of the Service Recognition program.


Personal economic loss is not a consideration here, since I now work to keep the brain from boredom rather than because I have to. But relinquishing this single item illustrates better than any other I can think of why the OMA not only seems to have lost its way, but also seems befuddled in its role as bargaining agent.


The SR bonus is the only benefit ever negotiated (PSA Reassessment 2007) by the OMA to recognize the merit of seniority, to say “Thank you, doctor, for X years in the trenches, and for not running off to South Carolina when the going got tough.”


The benefit is small, starting after five years of service at $250 a year and gradually increasing to a maximum of $1,633 a year after 30 years in OHIP. It is minuscule in comparison to the seniority-related benefits negotiated by other unions for their members. Graduated pay scales based on years of service, pensions, sickness, and drug and dental benefits come to mind.


Left in place it has no effect on internal relativity between the sparring partners within the OMA. And it is symbolic in its uniqueness. Now the OMA is prepared to agree to government reneging on the benefit. Not just a small percentage reduction, which is the proposal for fees and for the CMPA reimbursement, but the total elimination of a hard-won benefit.


On the other hand, the OMA seems comfortable allowing government to continue to pay maternity benefits to those barely starting into their careers. And please don’t get me wrong; maternity is important too, but only when you have all the other aforementioned benefits in place.


Perhaps I shouldn’t feel insulted by the juxtaposition, or worried by OMA Central’s inability to think abstractly.


And why is union seniority important, you ask? An extensive dissertation is beyond the scope of this rant, but suffice to say most unionized employees understand very well that seniority in practice strengthens their association a whole lot, and in immeasurable ways. And their unions are prepared to fight tooth and nail for the maintenance of the principles. I invite anyone interested to do a Google search, and browse for a while amongst the information.


Employers also understand the strategic importance of seniority—which is, I observe, why many attempt to undermine union seniority at every opportunity in the ongoing dance of labour relations. (See the recent news reports about the Target purchase of Zellers stores for a practical demonstration of the issues.)


Strangely, in all my years around the OMA I have never heard much discussion about seniority. It’s like it doesn’t exist—which might reflect the attitude of an organization that does not have to ask its compulsory dues-paying members for their consent to be represented.


This I know for sure: If we want to build a stronger, more cohesive representative association, we can ill afford to ignore the concept of seniority. And we certainly shouldn’t abandon the only benefit we have ever negotiated that recognizes its merit.



Mike Goodwin is a former OMA board director who is committed to improving the representational capacity of the association.




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