Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Liberals Poisoned Wage Freeze Efforts by Awarding Bonuses to Managers: Critics

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Liberals Poisoned Wage Freeze Efforts by Awarding Bonuses to Managers: Critics

Article excerpt

Bonuses creating labour headache for Liberals

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TORONTO - The governing Liberals shot themselves in the foot by giving bonuses to senior civil servants while demanding a wage freeze from public sector workers to eliminate a $15-billion deficit, union and opposition leaders say.

The cash-strapped government still has to negotiate new labour contracts with scores of other workers and the bonuses will undermine their push to hit the pause button on compensation, they said.

Warren "Smoky" Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, said the Liberals can't expect rank-and-file government workers to hold the line on wages when almost all of their bosses got performance pay in 2011.

Talks affecting 38,000 of the union's members will start Nov. 5, and the bonuses will definitely come up, he said.

"No doubt in my mind that the government's going to want zeroes," Thomas said, adding that the average salary of those workers sits at about $42,000.

"What I would say to the government: 'Tell you what, keep my salary. Just give me that bonus once a year,'" Thomas said referring to hefty bonuses given to many senior civil servants.

Premier Dalton McGuinty ordered a review of performance pay a day after The Canadian Press reported that nearly all eligible government managers received bonuses in 2011, costing $35.6 million.

But he pointed out that their base salary was frozen and the overall pool of money for bonuses has shrunk by 30 per cent since 2009.

The fact that they still got bonuses is a kick in the gut to the average worker, unions leaders said.

"I had this argument with him face-to-face. I said, that's not a pay freeze," Thomas said.

"So I don't get a raise but I get an $80,000 bonus? Well hell, I'll take that over a raise any day."

Last week, the head of eHealth Ontario returned the $81,250 bonus he got in mid-June -- on top of his $329,000 salary -- after it was reported by The Canadian Press.

It's hard to believe the Liberals are serious about reining in costs when 98 per cent of government managers got bonuses last year, said Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak. …

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