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OPSEU/SEFPO calls on province to rein in ‘out-of-control’ executive pay at Grey Bruce Health Unit

Owen Sound – The leaders of OPSEU/SEFPO are urging Premier Doug Ford to step in after revelations that the public health CEO in Grey Bruce made more than $630,000 last year – a 243 per cent raise since 2018.

“Ian Arra may be working hard during the pandemic, but this is a massive insult to all the front-line heroes working just as hard to get people through this pandemic,” said OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “While the boss can buy a house on a single year’s salary, local hospitals and long-term care homes are losing workers due to a decade of below-inflation wage increases, and now can’t find the workers they need.

“There is something really wrong with this picture and the Premier needs to step in immediately.”

Released late last week, the 2020 Public Sector Salary Disclosure – also known as the “Sunshine List” – shows that Grey Bruce Health Unit CEO and Medical Officer of Health Ian Arra was paid a salary of $631,510.22 in 2020. That’s 64 per cent more than the $385,349.79 he made in 2019 and 243 per cent more than the $184,002 he made in 2018.

In 2020, Arra’s salary was nearly $200,000 more than province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, David Williams. Ford himself earned $208,974.

“We’re always debating the minimum wage for workers. Clearly, we need to start debating maximum wages for bosses,” said OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida. “It’s hard to believe Arra can even look people in the eye while taking this much money out of the system. If I were him, I’d immediately donate a big chunk of that salary back into all the local long-term care homes and hospitals struggling to fill vacancies.”

While none have seen the same massive raises given to Arra, other managers at the Grey Bruce Health Unit received pay hikes ranging from nine to 27 per cent in 2020. By comparison, OPSEU/SEFPO members working at the public health unit received a 2020 wage increase of just one per cent. Although the Bill 124 wage cap doesn’t directly apply to the staff in the health unit, it’s clear the legislation had an indirect effect on their wages, Thomas pointed out, adding that Arra’s massive pay hike is an insult to all front-line public sector workers.

“Tens of thousands of front-line workers around the province are being asked to make do with wage hikes that don’t even match the inflation rate, while Arra is getting this obscene raise,” Thomas said. “There must be some accountability and if the Grey Bruce Health Unit Board of Directors won’t do the right thing and get this disgrace under control, the province must find new board members who will.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931