Province Sets Sights on Public Sector Wages

The Ontario government is setting its sights on the wages of public sector workers as the Progressive Conservative government looks to eliminate a $13.5-billion dollar deficit.

Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy said in a speech on Thursday that he will look at how to reduce compensation costs, including possibly imposing hard caps on pay increases.

He says he will consult with public sector employers and bargaining agents, and a letter being sent to them says the government is considering legislating allowable compensation increases.

Any measures could impact teachers, professors, nurses, Crown attorneys, provincial police officers, power workers and thousands of other public-sector staff.

Bethlenfalvy says $72-billion dollars a year is spent on public sector compensation, and while they have earned their  "generous" pay, the government must ensure the sustainability of programs and services.

CUPE is Ontario's largest union, with over 270,000 members across the province

Candace Rennick, Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE, has responded to Bethlenfalvy's speech.

"Why is the government consulting on how to lower workers incomes when public sector wage settlements in Ontario in 2018 were already at 1.6%, well below the 2.4% inflation rate?" Rennick asked. 

In a release, she said "Ontario's workers are not overpaid and cutting their incomes will only hurt families and slow down the province's economic growth."

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union has also responded to the proposal.

OPSEU President Warren "Smokey" Thomas called the Ford government's promise to consult with public sector unions "a complete sham."

"It's the 'my way or the highway' approach with Ford," said Thomas. "From Sex Ed changes to autism funding and health care restructuring; they haven't listened to anyone except their high-priced consultants and insider friends."

The Ford government will deliver its first budget on April 11.