Yesterday, Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan proposed legislation to cap the pay of public-sector executives. The measure would affect such employees as hospital, university and electricity utility chief executive officers, many of whom make more than $1 million a year.
Duncan said Thursday the minority Liberal government will limit public sector executives to twice the premier's $208,974 salary — or $418,000 annually — and scrap bonuses for two years. There were about 150 executives in the civil service and broader public sector who made more than $418,000 last year, mainly in hospital administration.
"Frontline healthcare workers welcome the move to cap runaway CEO pay," said Sharleen Stewart, President of SEIU Local 1 Canada, which represents more than 50,000 frontline healthcare workers in Ontario and is the fastest growing labour organization in North America. "It is vital that these savings from capping executive pay and bonuses be invested in quality healthcare, and in providing relief for overstretched frontline staff."
For more than two years, SEIU Local 1 Canada has been pressuring the Ontario government to put an end to soaring hospital CEO salaries and bonuses in the face of vocal opposition from the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA), hospital boards, and hospital executives themselves. SEIU had been calling on Ontario to follow the example of other provinces by stepping in to directly set compensation for executives at publicly-funded hospitals, starting with a salary cap.
"This is a tremendous victory for the workers our union represents, and for the quality of our healthcare system," said Stewart. "We're pleased that the McGuinty government has finally heeded our calls to bring some accountability to public spending on healthcare bosses. It's unconscionable to target front-line healthcare workers while allowing double-digit increases in the pay of executives and managers who pocket 40 times what the average caregiver takes home."
Stewart said that instead of unfairly placing much of the burden of reducing the deficit on front-line staff like paramedics and registered practical nurses, the savings realized from capping hospital executive and senior management salaries should be invested in preventive initiatives like mother and baby programs and community-based care, and in supporting front-line workers caring for people.
She says she remains deeply concerned that Premier McGuinty plans to target other front-line staff like paramedics and firefighters, going beyond Ontario's elementary and secondary public school teachers, by imposing contracts through legislation.
"Not only does such legislation undermine the constitutionally-protected right to free association and the democratic process of collective bargaining, it unfairly puts the onus on front-line workers to bear the professional and personal costs of an economic crisis they did not cause," Stewart said. "Now that he's reigning in spending on hospital executive pay, the Premier should get serious about targeting corporations to pay their fair share to help reduce the deficit."
SOURCE: Service Employees International Union Local 1 Canada