Thank you for your participation in the recently concluded consultation sessions on public sector compensation. The purpose of these consultations was to make our partners aware of our fiscal challenge in a detailed way, clarify compensation policy, and discuss solutions towards achieving collective bargaining outcomes of no net increases to compensation for two years. As I’ve said before, we all share the vital goal of protecting public services at a time of fiscal and economic challenge.
Given the complex and decentralized character of public sector bargaining in Ontario, we knew from the outset of these talks that the process would be difficult and
time-intensive. There exists no long-standing forum in this province to bring together public-sector partners for a conversation about compensation. This meant that all of us at the tables would be navigating relatively uncharted territory. But while the configuration of discussions may have been complex and relatively unfamiliar, our government’s objectives through this process have always been straightforward and clear: to work with our broader public sector partners to provide the key services on which Ontarians rely.
I am grateful for the input that was provided by employer and union leaders alike during these sessions, and for your willingness to gain a greater understanding of the fiscal realities driving the government’s position. All parties – government, employers and unions, and taxpayers – now have a better understanding of each other’s expectations and of the current fiscal challenge.
As you know, the fiscal plan provides no funding for compensation increases for two years in future collective agreements. The consequence of this fiscal reality is clear: we will not transfer any additional funds to accommodate incremental compensation increases.
Since we took office in 2003, our government has consistently invested in key public services. These investments have created jobs and growth in your sectors – sectors that had been neglected for too long. Our strong relationships with our partners has been beneficial to all of us: the government has been able to improve service delivery, Ontarians have benefited from receiving those services, and our public sector partners have benefited from being able to deliver those services in better work environments. Now, the Province of Ontario is emerging from a deep global recession. Our government took action to create jobs and protect those key public services that we have all rebuilt together.
This government has never said that the fiscal situation was the result of public sector workers. But we cannot ignore the simple fact that 55 per cent – or more than
$50 billion – of all government program expenses go to compensation, either directly or through transfers. While the government has undertaken several expense management initiatives, we can only manage the deficit by also addressing the single biggest line in our budget – public-sector compensation.
Everyone who is paid through taxpayer dollars is being asked to do their part in achieving this objective on behalf of Ontarians. For non-bargaining employees, compensation structures have been frozen for two years. The freeze on salaries of Members of Provincial Parliament was extended to three years.
Ontarians value and appreciate the contributions of those who deliver their public services and they also expect much from all of us. They expect us to provide support for their education, health care, businesses and families.
Now that the talks have concluded, we remain committed to respecting existing collective agreements. We expect all parties to continue recognizing the fiscal situation facing the province and to continue to seek ways to comply with the Policy Statement in the context of their own individual collective bargaining. Together, we will grow the economy, create new jobs, attract new investments, and eliminate the provincial deficit.
Once again, thank you for your participation in the consultation process.