What will bargaining look like with a Liberal government?

Many people voted for the Liberals in the recent provincial election on June 12 to strengthen our public services. They voted for a stronger, universal healthcare system, well-staffed and well-funded schools, and to employ highly qualified civil servants to deliver valuable government services that we all depend on.

Then why are there rumours circulating that the Ontario Liberals might start downsizing our government?

First, that’s what it just might be – rumours. But Premier Kathleen Wynne did promise to eliminate Ontario’s $12.5-billion deficit in three years. No one is really sure how she will accomplish this without drastic cuts to government services and delivering a big shock to our provincial economy.

The NDP is now claiming the Liberals may have plans to sell parts of the LCBO, Hydro One and Ontario Power Generation. The new provincial budget that was unveiled on July 14 did mention some kind of plan to “maximize” and “unlock” the value of these crown corporations. What does this mean? Nobody knows yet. But remember, other premiers such as Mike Harris, Ernie Eves, and Dalton McGuinty talked about privatization but it never happened. So this might just be talk.

But there is verbal talk about a wage freeze. The Ontario Government has just begun bargaining with the Ontario Medical Association. Minister of Health Eric Hoskins said the government doesn’t have the money for wage increases. Many people expect the government to make the same argument when it begins negotiating a new contract for Ontario’s teachers, which begins in the fall.

Is this a sign of things to come? We have to remember the Ontario government is an employer. Just about every single employer SEIU bargains with says they don’t have money for a raise. But that doesn’t mean the employer always gets what they want. And there is evidence to suggest SEIU members may do well under a Liberal government. So far, the newly-elected Liberal government has been very supportive of issues that are important to healthcare workers. Kathleen Wynne’s recent budget vows will increase the wage of an Ontario homecare PSW to $16.50 an hour by 2017.

And so it seems we will have to wait and see how the story unfolds for negotiations after this recent provincial election, but we will remain hopeful.


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