September 26, 2012
Ont. Grits move ahead with public sector wage freeze
By Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief
TORONTO — The Dalton McGuinty government says public sector workers can negotiate a two-year pay freeze or it will do it for them.
The government released legislation Wednesday that would freeze wages without cuts in service in any new collective agreement.
"A compensation freeze would protect the jobs of thousands of hardworking Ontarians," Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said in a statement.
Major public sector union leaders have an "emergency" meeting scheduled for later Wednesday to plan a province-wide response to the legislation.
Compensation for doctors and teachers is being dealt with separately, but the bill does apply to almost all workers who provide provincially funded services.
The legislation covers 481,321 public sector employees and it's expected to save $2.8 billion over three years.
The Liberals insist their bill is different from the broader public sector pay freeze proposed by PC Leader Tim Hudak, which the government dismissed as unconstitutional.
The Liberal bill allows for collective bargaining and strikes, the government says.
It also gives the government the power to impose a collective agreement on workers after negotiations.
There's no set date to introduce the legislation because the house is currently debating a contempt motion related to the Liberal decision to cancel two Greater Toronto Area gas plants.
The Protecting Public Services Act affects staff at hospitals, colleges, universities, the liquor control board, Ontario Public Service, and public health units.
Municipal workers aren't included in the bill.