February 25, 2016 17:46 ET

MEDIA RELEASE: Ontario Budget Continues to Strain Valuable Public Services

TORONTO, ON--(Marketwired - February 25, 2016) - The 2016 Ontario budget offers public servants both some welcome words and some concerning commitments, says AMAPCEO, a union representing 12,000 professional workers in the Ontario Public Service and seven broader public sector agencies.

While talk of renewal in the Ontario Public Service is good news, the government's vague commitment to 'modernize' information technology raises significant concerns.

AMAPCEO welcomes renewal in the Ontario Public Service, including the government's commitment to diversity, anti-racism, and increased leadership and skills development. On the other hand, the announcement of the government's vague agenda to modernize information technology leaves many unanswered questions. "AMAPCEO will be vigilant in protecting the interests of our members," said AMAPCEO President Dave Bulmer. "The simple fact is, it's time to start investing in the people that make Ontario work -- through rebuilding skills, recruiting and training -- and retaining -- the next generation of public servants."

In terms of compensation, the budget continues to rely on the government's ill-conceived policy of "net zero" compensation increases, though Ontario remains the lowest-cost jurisdiction for service delivery in the country. Beyond wages, according to the government's figures the PRRT (the government's program review process) has met more than forty per cent of its cost-saving target on the back of employee benefit reductions. "The public service is leaner than ever. Public servants have done our part -- and then some -- to contain costs. It's time to start re-investing in public services," said Bulmer.

A new panel, led by Don Drummond will be making recommendations on a new "performance incentive" program for non-union employees. AMAPCEO's OPS membership were stripped of performance pay in concessionary bargaining in 2012 as part of the government's "net zero" bargaining agenda. "The government's renewed interest in performance incentives is a tacit acknowledgement of the need to invest in the people who deliver public services. As we get ready to bargain, we'll be looking to make up some of the nearly 10 per cent in real wage loss over the past 5 years. AMAPCEO will be watching Mr. Drummond very closely," said Bulmer.

There are glimmers of light in the Budget, particularly the investment in post-secondary students, action of cap-and-trade, and the ORPP. But the sale of Hydro One, the continued reluctance to even modestly increase the corporate tax rate, and the ongoing fixation with balancing the budget through wage restraint represent serious problems with the government's fiscal agenda.

About AMAPCEO: Established in 1992, the Association of Management, Administrative and Professional Crown Employees is a bargaining agent that represents 12,000 professional and supervisory public servants, most of whom work directly for the Government of Ontario in every ministry and in a number of agencies, boards and commissions; in 130 communities throughout Ontario and in eleven cities outside Canada. We also represent employees outside the Ontario Public Service in: the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth; Waypoint Mental Health Centre in Penetanguishene; Public Health Ontario; the Ontario Racing Commission; Health Quality Ontario; the Ontario Arts Council and the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner.

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