Ontario’s cash-strapped Liberal government is moving to freeze wages for CEO’s and senior executives at hospitals, universities and right across the broader public sector.
Finance Minister Dwight Duncan will use legislation to put a $418,000 a year cap on salaries for top public sector executives, but won’t roll back pay for the 150 people who already make more than that.
There will also be exemptions for key positions such as Chief Nuclear Officer at Ontario Power Generation and other positions.
The Liberals will also freeze the pay for about 8,800 managers in the Ontario civil service, a move they say will save about $12 million a year.
However, the government cannot say how many people in the broader public sector will be affected by the legislation, or how much it will save by freezing their pay.
All they can say is the number will be less than 350,000.
The government has warned it would legislate a two-year wage freeze for Ontario’s broader public sector — about 1.3 million workers — if it couldn’t negotiate zero-increase deals.
It already imposed a contract on public school teachers that allows younger teachers to get raises but freezes salaries for the majority, but so far has not moved to legislate a wage freeze on public sector workers.
Duncan has been complaining about recent contracts negotiated at universities and by firefighters that provided salary increases.
The Liberals say they need the wage freeze to eliminate a $13-billion deficit and avoid layoffs and service cuts.
The government has said it will not open up existing contracts, but Duncan said recently everyone paid for by the Ontario taxpayers can expect a two-year wage freeze in their next contact if they don’t agree to one now.
The Progressive Conservatives have been demanding a legislated wage freeze for the public sector, and supported the minority government’s bill imposing a new deal on teachers.
However, that controversy helped the New Democrats take the Kitchener-Waterloo riding from the Tories in a byelection this month, which also prevented the Liberals from getting their majority.