9/21/12

Ontario hospitals oppose wage cap

It's not often that Ontario hospitals express opposition to government policy publicly. But the government's new cap on public sector executive pay of $418,000 (annually) has caused them to come out and release a public statement expressing their "extreme disappointment."

"This is another example of the Government of Ontario and legislators devaluing the work and skills of hospital leaders, and those who lead Ontario's vital BPS organizations," the OHA noted.

The Ontario Hospital Association notes that 'only' 77 hospital executives are paid more than $418,000.

But don't worry too much about them, the cap will only apply to new executives -- and even for these new hires, the government has indicated that special exceptions can be made.  Moreover, the bosses aren't getting concessions imposed on them like the school board workers.

Nevertheless, the hospital bosses must be angry -- their rather spirited statement isn't going to curry any favour from government (or the public), I reckon.

The OHA release goes on to suggest that the government should change the Hospital Labour Disputes Arbitration Act (HLDAA--the legislation which governs how arbitrators can set working conditions for unionized hospital workers who are forbidden by law from settling contract disputes through strikes).

They call on the government "to finally and appropriately address this issue which, unlike today's proposal, would have an immediate, noticeable and positive effect supporting restraint in health system spending."

Apparently, their view is that while a cap of  $418,000 is inappropriate for new executives, the government should stick it to experienced hospital workers earning one tenth of that.  

Indeed, even the Liberal Budget bill attack on HLDAA and arbitrators would have "made adverse, costly decisions from arbitrators more likely, not less," according to the OHA.

In fact, those changes would have biased the arbitration system against employees and made it difficult for respected arbitrators to participate in the process. 

Fortunately, the government's proposals failed to pass. But the Liberals have threatened to bring back the legislation in the fall. 

Indeed, the Liberals all but  suggested yesterday that their announcement concerning executive pay will pave the way for  further attacks on collective bargaining in the public sector. Dwight Duncan said other measures affecting public sector workers will be announced "very shortly".

But undermining interest arbitration would be a serious attack on the bargaining process, the main way essential hospital workers can defend their dignity and security at work.

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