The Ontario budget was more of the same as the legislature chose to continue pay freezes for non-unionized staff, and continues to recommend freezes for unionized staff as well.
The freeze would affect not only direct government employees, but also government funded organizations such as hospitals and universities. The directive is similar to one made three years ago, which has proven ineffective so far with arbitrators describing it as non-binding.
However, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan confirmed that a failure to bargain within its parameters may result in binding legislation.
“On the face of this budget this is another directive that has no teeth, but Dwight Duncan has indicated that the government would legislate it,” says Filion Wakely Thorup Angeletti associate Brian Macdonald. “There would be constitutional issues around that, and I think that’s where some of the government’s wariness is coming from, but that’s what they have to do if they want it to be enforced.”
These unknowns are only likely to be resolved with the first major wage bargaining, when the government could choose to go ahead with legislation.
The Budget explicitly extends for two years the wage freeze for executives at Ontario’s “hospitals, colleges, universities, school boards, and agencies.”
“You could certainly see a migration of talent at the upper levels to the private sector,” Macdonald says. “Senior people in the public sector are probably going to be dissatisfied that they have waited for a raise for a couple years under the former wage freeze legislation only to see more legislation come into effect.”
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