Deal reached on contracting court transcription work

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union and the Ministry of the Attorney General have reached a settlement in a long-running dispute about the contracting out of court transcription work.

The settlement allows the ministry to move forward on its new model for the preparation and certification of court transcripts. Starting in June, salaried court reporters will record proceedings but independent court transcriptionists will do the transcription phase of the work.

Through the transition, the province has offered existing court reporters the option of taking the in-court record and not producing the transcripts; doing the in-court work and performing transcription duties as independent contractors; or becoming completely independent and doing the transcript work only.

“The ministry and the union are currently working together to implement the settlement,” said ministry spokesman Brendan Crawley last week.

“The transcriptionists will be selected from a publicly accessible list and parties will place the transcript order directly with the authorized transcriptionist,” Crawley added.

“The authorized court transcriptionist and the ordering party will agree to all aspects of production, including availability to prepare transcripts within required timelines, payment options, and any specific delivery requirements.”

Besides the contracting aspect, the parties also came to an agreement on a related pay dispute involving the ministry’s court reporters. In a case going back years, OPSEU accused the province of being in violation of its collective agreement by not applying it to court reporters who prepare and certify transcripts. At one point, the union took the matter to the Grievance Settlement Board as it sought an order applying the terms and conditions of the collective agreement.
The board found the duties court reporters perform in typing and certifying transcripts of court proceedings was bargaining-unit work rather than additional freelance-type duties beyond their regular courtroom activities. But the dispute continued as the union alleged the government failed to act on the rulings.

In what OPSEU is now calling a “landmark settlement,” the union and the ministry agreed court reporters would have two options to recover compensation.
One option will allow court reporters who were doing transcription work for the ministry and are members of the pension plan to buy back their pension service by making retroactive contributions for their transcription earnings between June 2003 and June 2014, according to OPSEU.

Those who don’t like the first option or don’t qualify for it can choose an alternative of $500 per year from the ministry for every full year of service between June 2003 and June 2014 in which they were qualified to produce court transcripts.

For its part, the union, which represents 650 court reporters, said the settlement was the best it could do. “Everything considered, I believe that this settlement is the best possible solution,” said OPSEU president Warren Thomas in a press release.

“Under Ontario law, it would have been very difficult to win a contempt motion against the Crown, and even then, the court would not have ordered compensation for affected members or any limitation on the ministry’s right to implement its new model for the production of transcripts.”

“Appeals would have lasted for years, further frustrating our members’ rights. It was time to reach a settlement, and put some money in our members’ pockets. We will now move forward, and monitor [the ministry] very closely as they implement this new transcription model.”

For more, see "OPSEU accuses province of contempt."

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