CORNWALL, Ontario – A collection of eastern Ontario mayors, including Cornwall’s Bob Kilger, are gathering ammunition to fight what they feel are unfair public salary arbitration awards.
The move by the Eastern Ontario Mayor’s Committee (EOMC) takes aim at awards delivered to public employees like police and firefighters who have seen their salariy increases far outpace other sectors.
The mayors argue arbitrators who award the salaries are not paying close enough attention to a municipality’s ability to pay – and taxpayers are being forced to fork over more money.
“You see the rising costs are ongoing – particularly for police and fire,” said Kilger in an interview. “We’ve seen salaries in those two areas escalate more than any other sector.”
An average tax bill in Cornwall in 2013 will sit at around $2,463, which represents a home assessed at $163,000.
Of that bill, police ($730) and fire ($318) services make up the largest components – and the lion’s share of those figures come from salaries and benefits.
The EOMC met Wednesday to endorse a bill being put forward in the Ontario Legislature which calls for reforming interest arbitration in the province.
Bill 44 introduces Ministry of Labour oversight to arbitration, requires that arbitrators provide full written reasons for their decisions, and establishes criteria that tie arbitration awards to the “capacity to pay” of local municipalities.
“This is pretty much exactly what the EOMC was looking for in terms of interest arbitration reform that addresses the broken current system that has put our taxpayers on the hook for wildly escalating public sector salaries,” said Prescott Mayor Brett Todd, chair of the EOMC. “We encourage the governing Liberal party to take a serious look at this bill and get into a dialogue with the other parties and the municipalities of Ontario to move this issue forward and embrace real, meaningful reform with arbitration.”
Recent provincial arbitration awards suchinclude a 27 per cent increase for firefighters in Scugog, a 20 per cent increase handed out to Stratford’s full-time firefighters and dispatchers, and an 11.7 per cent increase awarded to police in Windsor.