Earlier this month, Ontario’s Auditor General reported that last year’s Pan Am Games had gone over budget to the tune of $342 million. That’s about 15.6 per cent higher than what the games were supposed to cost, Bonnie Lysyk calculated.
Now, I know it’s not easy to budget for things; I do it every year for OPSEU. You never know exactly what’s going to pop up over the course of 12 months. There is a certain amount of educated guesswork involved.
That being said, if I overspent our OPSEU budget by the same percentage, I’d be about $15 million too high. That’s over $100 per OPSEU member.
I’m pretty sure I’d be out of a job.
But in the high-flying world of well-connected games organizers – former Liberal Premier David Peterson was the chair of the Games – going over budget is not cause for anxiety. Heck, no: it’s cause for celebration.
Games organizers got bonuses when they went over budget. Fifty-three senior staff got paid $5.3 million just for meeting budget targets (they didn’t) and for staying to the end of their contracts.
That’s an average bonus of $100,000 apiece. And who’s paying for it? Well, we are. A full $304 million of the cost overrun for the Pan Am Games is being covered by the provincial government.
Apparently, there’s lot of money in this province.
But not for working people. Last Thursday night, I watched closely as OPSEU members at the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation kept fighting right past a strike deadline for a decent wage increase for themselves and their families. Top MPAC executives have seen pay increases as high as 24 per cent over two years. Yet they were kicking and scratching to keep wage hikes for their own frontline workers below the rate of inflation.
Everywhere we look, it’s the same: dollars for bosses, pennies for workers.
I say, let’s put those big pay hikes and bonuses where they can do the most good: in the pockets of regular working people who just want to live decently, support their communities, raise their kids, and retire with dignity.
How about this? Let’s go with no bonuses for those already paid too much. Let’s move that money to the frontline workers who are struggling to make a living wage.
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
First Vice-President/Treasurer, Ontario Public Service Employees Union