Toronto

Ontario pay freeze comes with loophole

The Ontario government's pay freeze for some 350,000 non-unionized staff comes with a loophole. The door is still open for extra pay based on job performance, years of service and new qualifications.

Pay can rise for good performance and other reasons

The Ontario government's pay freeze for some 350,000 non-unionized staff comes with a loophole.

The door is still open for extra pay based on performance, years of service or new qualifications, CBC provincial affairs reporter Mike Crawley says.

The McGuinty Liberals are slapping a two-year freeze on salaries of top executives in hospitals, school boards and the civil service, and the same goes for all staff whose contracts are not bargained collectively. But there are exceptions.

In stiff legislative language, the bill lists three ways pay can rise. They are found on page 66 of the 108-page document, in Section 8(3) of Schedule 25 (Public Sector Compensation Restraint) : 

3. His or her successful completion of a program or course of professional or technical education .

The exceptions seem to cover the typical ways people could see their pay bumped up apart from an across the board percentage increase.

The Conservative finance critic, Norm Miller, says he was taken aback by the clause. "I'm surprised, frankly, to find out that they've left loopholes there so they can actually still increase wages," he said.

NDP labour critic Peter Kormos says the bill gives "the high priced help, the CEO types with the six-digit-plus incomes"  a free pass while blocking raises for others. "The little guy is getting the shaft and the top-end people, the close intimate friends of the McGuinty Liberals, are getting the gold," he said.

Bonuses will be frozen in one circumstance, however.

If someone gets the maximum bonus his or her contract allows this year, the bonus cannot increase next year. It can still be paid; it just can't go up.

As things stand, no one knows how much is being paid in public sector bonuses. When Ontario publishes its "sunshine list" of those earning more than $100,000, bonuses are not separated out of total pay.

The list for 2009 is to be released Wednesday.