Ontario looking to contract out transcription work

The Ontario government is looking to contract out the transcription work of its court reporters, a new Grievance Settlement Board ruling reveals.

The March 1 ruling, which considered a grievance by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union against the provincial government’s treatment of court reporters as independent contractors when it comes to their transcription work, noted the new plan aimed at responding to an earlier finding that the province’s approach was in violation of the collective agreement.

“The employer has made it known to the union as well as the board that its intention is to exercise its management rights to contract out the work of producing transcripts,” wrote vice chairman Nimal Dissanayake.

The ruling follows a 2006 decision that the work court reporters do in typing and certifying transcripts of court proceedings was bargaining unit work rather than additional freelance-type duties beyond their regular courtroom activities.

Under the Ministry of the Attorney General’s framework, court reporters got a per-page fee for transcription work often done outside of regular hours. The union, however, argued transcription work was a key function performed by court reporters that should be subject to the provisions of the collective agreement and the associated remuneration for things like overtime and holiday pay.

Despite the 2006 ruling, the parties have struggled to agree on how to implement it and, as such, the government has maintained the existing regime that essentially treats court reporters as employees for their regular courtroom duties and independent contractors for transcription work. As a result, parties have been back before the board repeatedly since 2010 in a bid to resolve the issue.

Despite the government’s imminent plans to contract out the work and its argument that the board lacked jurisdiction to force it apply the collective agreement, Dissanayake ordered the province to change its approach right away.

“The employer shall forthwith cease its violation of the collective agreement by failing to apply the collective agreement to court reporters, who the board had declared to be employees performing bargaining work when producing transcripts,” wrote Dissanayake.

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