"Dwight Duncan is cutting almost $5 billion in corporate taxes in the next three years despite Ontario having one of the lowest tax rates in the industrialized world." - Warren (Smokey) Thomas.
Toronto (10 Nov. 2010) - An independent Ontario arbitrator has awarded pay raises to about 16,000 unionized nurses and hospital workers in spite of the wage freeze announced by the province's Liberal government.
The Toronto Star reports that dozens of hospitals — including Mount Sinai, North York General, Sunnybrook and Toronto East General — have been ordered to give the workers a 2% raise over two years. Many of the workers are represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU Canada).
The order contradicts the last provincial budget of Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, who called for a two-year freeze on wages affecting more than one million nurses, teachers and other public employees. The freeze is needed to help deal with a projected $19.7 billion provincial deficit, he said.
“While there is no doubt that this province has fallen upon difficult economic times, we must consider the full range of relevant economic indicators as they impact upon collectively bargained terms and conditions of employment,” arbitrator Kevin Burkett wrote in the decision.
“Government pronouncements of intent with respect to future funding are not, in and of themselves, sufficient to override what would otherwise be the content of an arbitrated award,” he said. “A legislated directive would be required for this to happen."
Burkett said a precedent was set when hospital workers represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) received 2% annual hikes prior to the budget.
The largest public sector union in the province, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE), has been leading the fight against a wage freeze. Public employees did not cause the deficit and should not be scapegoated by the government to deal with it, the union argues.
OPSEU has posted a new video on its website and YouTube called Tax cuts or health care? OPSEU Hospital Professionals Speak Out.
"Dwignt Duncan is cutting almost $5 billion in corporate taxes in the next three years despite Ontario having one of the lowest tax rates in the industrialized world," says Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of OPSEU.
"You know, we need the resources to provide quality services, including quality health care, education and social services.... In the next election we need to ask the candidates about these issues. We also need to talk to MPPs now to get their commitment to support a health system that will serve all Ontarians."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE
• Tax cuts or health care? OPSEU Hospital Professionals Speak Out