It’s time to stand up for Mississauga taxpayers by fixing a broken system that awards unaffordable contract settlements to government union employees, Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak said. “And to do it, we are bringing forward our Ability to Pay Act.”
“We need a freeze on new government spending and a mandatory, across-the-board government employee pay freeze for two years,” Hudak said. “But what comes after? Without bold reforms to the things that drive wages to these heights in the first place – such as the way arbitrators arrive at settlements – we’ll be right back where we started from,” Hudak added.
With a million employees and one out of every three workers considered an essential service, Ontario’s salary and benefit costs make up more than half of all program expenses, Hudak noted. “While the economy is barely growing, these workers continue to receive pay increases. And when government employers and their unionized employees, like police and fire fighters, cannot agree on new contracts, the disputes wind up before arbitrators, who often award increases that taxpayers cannot afford.”
“Paying more and more in salary and benefits means less money to deliver and expand services,” said Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion, who is chair of LUMCO – the Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus of Ontario. “Whereas the private sector has managed to keep wage pressures within the context of economic conditions, the same is not true with public sector organizations,” Mayor McCallion further noted.
For the last nine years, the government has ignored the calls of local officials to change the system, Hudak noted. “The government knows full well some councils have been forced to increase property taxes, impose user fees or cut services to pay for these contracts – at the expense of taxpayers and local business owners.” In just one such example, an arbitrator gave a six per cent pay increase to TTC unions, which will cost taxpayers’ $100 million.
The Ability to Pay Act makes this its goal, in three key ways:
· First, arbitrators’ decisions must factor in specific economic and budgetary factors, like the taxpayers’ ability to pay, when making decisions and explain those decisions in writing;
- Second, establish a panel of independent arbitrators to decide public sector cases within three months; and
· Third, dedicate an Ability to Pay Division would publish comparative information on compensation, as well as proactively disclose all arbitration decisions – call it sunshine and fairness.