Ontario to resume negotiations with doctors, discuss interest arbitration
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TORONTO — Negotiations will soon restart for Ontario's doctors, who have been without a physician services agreement for three years, with interest arbitration as the first order of business.
Amid a lengthy and messy dispute, the Ontario Medical Association had said doctors wouldn't return to the table unless the government introduced binding arbitration, but the province said while it would be willing to discuss it, the government wouldn't accept it as a pre-condition to negotiations.
The OMA said it was pleased on the arbitration front.
"This means that a binding interest arbitration process will be in place before the terms of a new physicians services agreement are negotiated," the association said in a statement.
"The OMA has been seeking binding interest arbitration so that an independent adjudication will resolve any outstanding differences between the parties in the negotiation of the terms and conditions of a physician services agreement."
Premier Kathleen Wynne said in a statement Thursday that the government is committed to that principle and it will be the first thing on the table when talks resume.
"The (health) minister and I have discussed the next steps and, as a show of good faith, and to demonstrate our sincere commitment to trying to reach a positive outcome in these renewed negotiations, our government will not make any unilateral adjustments to physician compensation or accountabilities while discussions are taking place," Wynne wrote.
The Liberal government angered doctors in 2015 by imposing fee cuts for some services, and had previously threatened to act on its own again if it couldn't reach an agreement with the OMA.
Doctors roundly voted down a proposal last summer that would have increased the approximately $12-billion physician services budget by more than $1 billion but set out $200 million in certain fees.
The OMA has dealt with internal turmoil since then, with some doctors upset that not only had the association endorsed that deal, it had been in talks with the government without doctors' knowledge.
Doctors dismissed another government proposal last year, saying it was just a re-hash of the previous offer, and have made vague threats of job action since then.
Thursday's news follows word from the OMA that it had established a new negotiating committee, 10 days after its executive committee resigned after a vote of non-confidence at an OMA meeting.
The government will now also establish a new negotiating team, Wynne said.