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Letter: Continued public sector salary increases are unsustainable

Why do public sector salary hikes have to be so much higher than the rate of inflation, letter-writer asks

It is well documented that Ontario public sector employees enjoy a salary of 30 per cent or more than that of the average Ontario worker in the private sector. Furthermore, findings documented in a report subtitled “Restoring Trust and Accountability in Ontario’s Finance” made it clear that municipalities’ appetite for more revenue stems from the fact that wages and benefits are the biggest contributor to out-of-control costs (in the range of approx. 40 per cent to 60 per cent of budget. Incidentally, the 2021 budget shows salaries and benefits at 43.5 per cent of the operating costs). 

It is also documented that the trend for these rising wages and benefits is simply unsustainable.

Here are some interesting facts that illustrate how out of control the City of Greater Sudbury’s situation has become. In viewing CNN News recently, host Chris Cuomo made reference to U.S. senator wages in the amount of $174,000 per annum. To verify, I googled his statement and also learned that this amount has been fixed for the last four years. 

In comparison, our very own Ed Archer, CAO of Greater Sudbury, in 2019 enjoyed a salary to the tune of $271,221.90 (U.S. $211,892.10). It begs the question: Do the responsibilities of a Chief Administrative Officer outweigh the responsibilities of a U.S. Senator? 

In researching salaries on the Sunshine List, the average wage increase from 2010 to 2019 was 3.5 per cent. The average inflation rate from 2010 to 2019 was 1.74 per cent. This illustrates that our civil servants on the Sunshine List have been given salary increases more than double the inflation rate.

How did we get here? Meanwhile, Air Canada announced they laid off 1,500 union employees due to falling revenues. Locally, we have just learned that Laurentian University is insolvent. Unlike Air Canada, universities have taxpayers to help bail them out. Laurentian University, unlike Air Canada, put their heads in the sand and did nothing. Was it not their responsibility to engage in discussions on “How can we get our house in order and bring costs down?” 

From what has been disclosed to date, the majority of students are enrolled in 20 per cent of courses offered. This suggests that 80 per cent of all other courses really don’t attract that many students. As a consequence, we have many well-paid teachers serving a small fraction of the student population. Does this make sense?

In short, taxpayers have little power to intervene in public sector salary negotiations, let alone to have our voices and concerns heard by the people we vote in. We have no place at the table for negotiating salary and benefits, yet we are the ones paying the tab. Herein lies the problem. \

Our leaders once elected seem to forget that we pay their salaries while their job is to best represent our needs in a fiscally responsible manner. The writing is on the wall. Our public servants must accept this reality and adjust their expectations related to unsustainable salary and benefit increases. Otherwise, we will see the day where many employees will be laid off similar to Air Canada employees.

Given that our mayor and councillors seem to lack the political will to make tough decisions, the taxpayers of the City of Greater Sudbury implore our city employees to share the pain and begin having discussions on how we can contribute in reducing our municipal taxes. 

Robert Hibbs, CHS
Financial Advisor