Province wants wage freezes on everyone even if its two years from now

Lambton County officials are scratching their heads wondering how they will impose a wage freeze on workers at the county’s nursing homes.

The province has told municipalities to impose wage freezes on contracts being negotiated this year as part of the effort to tame the province’s $13 billion deficit and many have complied. But in Lambton, workers in nursing homes had existing contracts that extend beyond the two year wage freeze period.

Chris Doyle, general manager of long-term care, says the province wants those contracts to be honoured but says when the county starts renegotiating several years from now, they have to impose the wage freeze then. “The province wants us to honour the agreements but says everyone should go through a period of zero increase,” he says.

It’s a concept Doyle, a former human resources manager for the county, says won’t work. “The province is saying ‘in two years down the road, don’t worry, you can negotiate a zero increase then’ and I say ‘show me.’ I don’t see that happening…I just don’t see where the money is going to come from.”

Doyle says if the county does negotiate an increase for workers and the province withholds the money, it could mean a $150,000 shortfall.

Doyle and Lambton County Warden Todd Case will be meeting with the Minister of Labour this week during the Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference in Mississauga to talk about the issue.

“The (the ministry) said they would help, I want to know what that help is going to be,” Doyle says.

– Heather Wright