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Ford Plans to Cut Health Care Worker Benefits by $250 million

Attack on health care worker benefits: The Ontario Ford government has specifically targeted in the Budget health care worker compensation  through cuts in premium payments (e.g. shift payments), overtime, and sick leave. "Improving" scheduling is also part of the plan.  The stated goal is to cut $250 million annually through such changes by 2020-21  -- i.e. next year.

This is squarely aimed at hourly paid employees. Managers don't get overtime and premium payments, and they are not likely to be targeted by attendance management programs or scheduling "improvements". 

With about half a million hourly paid employees working in health care a $250 million cut would mean about a cut of about $500 per employee per year.  

The Ford government claims in the Budget that this will have "no impact on patient care or front-line staff." 

In fact, a $500 cut may be low -- as it will be especially hard to harvest such amounts from contracted, for-profit corporations (e.g. in home care).  Those corporations have signed multi-year contracts with public authorities and certainly intend to pocket the results of any compensation cuts they achieve as profits, not hand them over to the government.  Theoretically, the government may be able to negotiate lower dollar contracts eventually if employee compensation is reducedBut that is not going to occur for many contracts within the next year.  

So, the great bulk of the cuts will have to come from employees working with an employer which operates under an annually renewed accountability agreement with the Local Health Integration Network (or some other public authority), e.g. hospital employees, long-term care employees, community care employees, or community health centre employees.  Employees mostly in the public sector.

The average total compensation for a CUPE hospital worker (wages and benefits for both full and part-time employees) is about $38,000 per year. It's likely less for long-term care and community care workers.  So a $500(+) cut is an incredibly aggressive target to achieve, especially in one year.

It is also far from clear how the government will get this out of public sector health care employees: very few are actually employed by the provincial government so the government cannot even introduce new management techniques to achieve these goals.  It cannot act directly to reduce compensation as an employer. 

This is not new  ground with a lot of "low hanging fruit" ready to be picked. Hospitals have been vigorously pursuing reduced sick leave and overtime for some years, as local union presidents can attest. So it will be hard work, even for employers to find these cuts.  

Local unions should certainly prepare for more such efforts to reduce these forms of compensation or alter scheduling.  (
It's unclear, at least to this writer,  what the Ford government means by cutting costs through "scheduling improvements". If you have thoughts -- pass them on.) 

Given the ambitious reduction target and the very limited ability of the province to manage health care employees, it is also at least possible that some bigger strategy is underway. 

Meanwhile, the Ford government has also promised $5 billion in savings for corporations this year. The contrast in treatment for workers and corporations could hardly be stronger.  Here's a chart from the Budget showing the 2019 Ford government hand-outs to the corporate sector: 


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