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The wage freeze: a Labour Day response

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Dear friends,

Every year, some bad boss reminds me why Labour Day matters.

In 2010, a company from Brazil stripped pension rights from nickel miners in Sudbury. Billionaire Galen Weston told 30,000 Ontario grocery clerks to eat a 25 per cent pay cut. And Premier McGuinty told a million provincial workers to accept a wage freeze.

It’s been a rough year for working people.

Bosses always want us to work as cheaply as possible. What’s new this year is that Ontario corporations think they’ve found a way to make profits off people who don’t even work for them.

People like you and me.

If it goes through, McGuinty’s two-year pay freeze will chop your wages by the rate of inflation. That means about two per cent in year one, and four per cent in year two. If you make (say) $45,000 a year, you’ll lose $900 in the first year and $1,800 in the second. And if future pay hikes don’t top inflation, you’ll be short that $1,800 every year from now on.

Dalton McGuinty says the money saved will go to save jobs, protect public services, and pay off the deficit. This is a load of bull.

Once phased in, the wage freeze will cost provincial workers $1.8 billion a year. Meanwhile, new corporate income tax cuts will cost the government $2.4 billion a year.(1) In plain English, every single dollar saved from the wage freeze will go straight to corporate profits.

Last year, Canada’s Big Six banks paid out $8 billion in bonuses alone. Bank profits this year will be more than double that. Why should a children’s aid worker in Ottawa, or a correctional officer in London, or a college secretary in Thunder Bay, be donating her hard-earned pay to pad those profits?

She shouldn’t. That’s why I’ve invited OPSEU’s top elected leaders, and all local presidents, to Toronto Sept. 13. That meeting is where we’ll forge our response to the wage freeze.

In the spirit of Labour Day I can tell you one thing: This union will stand up for its members – and all workers everywhere.

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President

(1) See Ontario’s Tax Plan for Jobs and Growth, p. 15.

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