Politics
Ontario public workers get $21.5M in pre-Christmas bonuses

Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan

Credits: REUTERS/MARK BLINCH

ANTONELLA ARTUSO | QMI AGENCY

TORONTO - About 4,700 senior Ontario bureaucrats got lump payments averaging $4,500 each in pre-Christmas bonuses at a total cost of $21.5 million.

Aly Vitunski, a spokeswoman for Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, said the retroactive pay freeze announced by the minister in September applies across the entire Ontario Public Service (OPS).

For non-unionized managers, the freeze is based on their 2010-11 T4 tax slip which includes that year's performance bonus, she said.

"In the absence of these payments, managers would see their pay go down as opposed to being frozen," Vitunski said Wednesday.

Others in the public sector saw the payouts as a year-end perk for bosses at a time when many frontline workers are being asked to accept concessions.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which is currently locked in difficult negotiations with the Dalton McGuinty government, says on its website that managers who make over $100,000 a year are receiving thousands of dollars "as a gift for the holidays.

"This is yet another example of the Liberal government's hypocrisy," OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says in a statement. "Granting bonuses to managers during contract negotiations is a slap in the face for frontline workers. It demonstrates this government's utter disrespect for our public services and the public structures that we all depend on."

An OPS source, who spoke to QMI Agency on condition of anonymity, said the lump sums were paid only to managers who were already receiving the maximum salary available in their job classification, causing discord within the senior ranks as others learned of the hefty cheques.

The source said a bonus is supposed to reward hard work, not seniority, but it appeared that everyone at the top got the money.

Vitunski confirmed that the lump sum payments went to those senior officials who had maxed out in their pay scale -- about 51% of eligible management -- as is traditionally done with OPS performance pay.

But managers can get no more than the maximum pay for performance they received prior to the 2011-12 freeze, and might not get a portion or any of the money if the quality of their work deteriorated, she said.

OPS managers who had room on their pay scale received their previous performance pay in installments throughout the year, she said.

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