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Savings are possible without job losses, says CUPE leader

January 20 2005 - Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario President Sid Ryan told the standing committee on finance and economic affairs today that it is time for the McGuinty government to take a fresh approach to meeting its budget challenges by looking at options that do not require cutting services, selling assets or privatizing.

"For example, instead of spending almost $100 million for severance payments to the 2,000 hospital workers who can expect to be laid off this year, we believe the province can save up to twice that amount by supporting the creation of a jointly-trusteed benefit plan for hospital employees across Ontario," Ryan said.

"This government has the same knee-jerk response as the one before it - cut services to Ontarians and cut good jobs in our communities. It's time for them to choose change."

Finance Minister Greg Sorbara has an obligation to fully investigate good ideas like a jointly-trusteed benefit plan and to urge the government's partners, like the Ontario Hospital Association, to do the same, Ryan said, noting that CUPE hospital locals are currently trying to negotiate such a plan. It also has potential for other sectors like education, he said.

"The provincial Liberals have yet to rise to the challenge that we gave them last year - invest in the public services that will help rebuild strong communities in our province, communities that were weakened by the Tories," Ryan said. "They still have time, but only if they remove their conservative blinkers and look at the whole vista of options before them."

Ryan has also questioned Sorbara's premise that the province is in dire financial straits. According to the Ontario Alternative Budget, he said, Ontario is headed for a modest deficit this year and could even find itself with a surplus.

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