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How about a real “net zero” approach?

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Dear friends,

It’s winter time, and Deb Matthews wants to freeze your wages.

The Treasury Board President says there is “no new funding for compensation increases” for provincial public employees.  She says public employees could get pay increases – in theory – but only if we pay for them ourselves through cuts to benefits and working conditions.

Publicly, Matthews calls this a “net zero” approach to bargaining. But at the table, it’s a different story. In the public service, for example, her own negotiators are demanding wage and benefit cuts that are far worse than an overall compensation freeze. Despite what Matthews says, the Liberals want to cut wages and they want to slash benefits and other terms of work. Plus they won’t say how many layoffs are coming.

Call it a deep freeze.

Of course, Matthews’ version of net zero is not a “freeze” at all: it’s really a cut. If inflation suddenly stopped tomorrow, a zero per cent pay increase would actually be a zero per cent pay increase. But inflation hasn’t stopped, and it won’t stop. It usually runs around two per cent. So zero really means minus two. If you make $50,000 a year, “net zero” is a $1,000 pay cut. Two years of zeroes make a $2,000 pay cut.

That’s a lot of money. So I’ve come up with a different proposal for Matthews to consider. I call it “real net zero.”

A real net zero policy would work like this:

  • We’d lose zero public dollars to the scores of crooked privatization schemes that are costing us billions.
  • We’d see zero cuts to real spending power because public sector wages would keep up with inflation.
  • We’d see zero job losses in a public sector that is already stretched to the breaking point.
  • We’d see zero reduction in economic growth because the Liberals would stop taking money out of our communities through cuts.

We’re far below real net zero right now. On the other hand, as every Canadian knows, winter doesn’t last forever.

It’s time to turn up the heat.

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union

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