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Liberal Government Announces Details of Wage-Freeze Legislation

Proposal calls for two-year wage freeze, gives government ability to set new collective agreements.

Finance Minister Dwight Duncan introducing the provincial budget in March 2012.

Ontario Minister of Finance Dwight Duncan laid out the details of much-anticipated wage-freeze legislation this morning, part of the minority Liberal government’s bid to eliminate a $15 billion budget deficit. The legislation would apply to nearly 500,000 public-sector workers, ranging from civil servants to college staff. It does not cover public-sector workers employed by municipalities, such as firefighters and police, nor does it cover doctors, who, like teachers, will have agreements negotiated separately.

The Protecting Public Services Act would freeze wages for two years (including performance pay for managers) and “introduce a permanent salary cap for new executives at no more than double the Premier’s salary.” Collective agreements will need to be vetted and approved by the finance minister, who would, if the legislation passes, be able to reject deals if they don’t meet the government’s budget goals. Also, summarizes the CBC, the legislation covers collective agreements “until 2017, so that workers who just signed agreements with wage hikes will still be hit with a two-year freeze in their next contract.”

Yesterday, the Ontario Federation of Labour announced that it will be convening an emergency meeting later today, “to draft province-wide plans to challenge Premier Dalton McGuinty’s recent attack on the Charter rights of workers.” The proposed legislation does not impose a strike ban, Duncan said today, but it does give the government the power to impose new collective agreements if none can be reached through negotiation. The government expects the legislation will wind up in court.

The legislation hasn’t yet been introduced formally, and can’t be until a current standoff over controversial power-plant closures concludes. If it passes, the government says, the act will save $2.8 billion over three years.

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