Turning Ontario Around Demands Structural Change: Hudak
25 July 2012
“(This year’s budget allocation) provides no funding for any salary increases resulting from individual employee movement on the grid.”
- memo from the Ministry of Education to all Directors of Education, March 29, 2012
“The impact of a grid freeze is much more significant than a wage freeze.”
- Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association website, April 2012
QUEEN’S PARK – Ontario can begin digging itself out of deficits and debt toward a brighter economic future, but only with a government that understands the need for structural change and an integrated plan to rein in chronic overspending, PC Leader Tim Hudak said today.
As evidence of the current government’s failure to recognize this, Hudak referred to the alleged “wage freeze” deal with the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), designed by union leaders and the Ministry of Education to give the impression of frozen salaries while allowing up to $7,000 in compensation increases over two years. In fact, the government knowingly refused to freeze the salary grid – which both OECTA and the Ministry of Education publicly acknowledge is a major driver of compensation costs.
“And that’s only for one comparatively small group of Ontario teachers,” Hudak noted. “Right now, about 45,700 teachers – or 40 per cent of the total – are still moving up on the salary grid. If this special deal is replicated for the other unions, and that movement isn’t frozen, it will cost taxpayers an additional $438 million over the next two years to pay for all these higher salaries.”
The government continually boasts about its so-called wage freeze, Hudak said, but they refuse to stand up to the union leaders who support their re-election campaigns using compulsory union dues: “The Premier claimed there was a wage freeze in the March budget, when there was clearly no such thing. Then, they voted against PC legislation that would have delivered a real across-the-board freeze, including the salary grid for all occupations. And now, they’ve caved to the public-sector unions again, in the first agreement out of the gate. If this carries over to the remaining teachers’ settlements they’re going to blow the fiscal plan to pieces.”
Hudak said these illusory “freeze” agreements are evidence that this government has no intention of reining in its nine years of overspending, because it is in thrall to public sector union bosses who refuse to recognize Ontario’s debt crisis. “By contrast, private sector unions have taken it on the chin, through concessions to keep their employers competitive and their jobs intact – if they’ve been lucky,” Hudak said. “You wonder what they think of all this featherbedding.”
Disclosures like the OECTA deal support the Ontario PCs’ call for major, structural reforms to pare back the influence of union bosses, as laid out in Paths to Prosperity: Flexible Labour Markets, Hudak said, as well as a real, legislated public sector wage freeze.
“These are bold and controversial ideas,” Hudak acknowledged. “But under the status quo, 600,000 Ontarians are unemployed. We’ve lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs in nine years, while adding 300,000 bureaucratic government jobs. Wage growth is last among all provinces. Our debt has doubled and will triple by 2017 – and we’ll only balance our budget three years after every other province.
“It’s time for a new direction.”