Open Letter: CFIB's Swift blasts Ontario government offer to elementary teachers

    TORONTO, Feb. 12 /CNW/ -

                                                             OPEN LETTER
    The Hon. Kathleen Wynne
    Minister of Education
    Mowat Block
    900 Bay St, 22nd Floor
    Toronto ON M7A1L2

    Dear Minister:

    On behalf of our 42,000 small and medium-sized business members in
Ontario, I would like to express our serious concern with your latest offer to
the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO). I was also surprised to
see reports in the media today that the elementary teachers' union was
"shocked" and "angered" by the offer. It is even more disquieting to learn
that they were "offended" by the fact that this offer was made public. Why
shouldn't the public be aware of this development when it is taxpayers' money
that will seal the deal with elementary teachers?
    In terms of the offer, we believe it is still prohibitively generous. A
$700-million deal, giving sizable increases in both salary and benefits to
elementary teachers, is a hard pill to swallow for Ontario's taxpayers, both
businesses and residents, especially at a time of growing economic instability
and rising unemployment. In addition, hiring an additional 1,500 teachers, as
the union demands, does not do anything to address the growing concern of
lower enrollment rates in the province. Taking such extraordinary measures to
satisfy unreasonable union demands sets your government on the treacherous
path of maintaining the same level of "generosity" when other public contracts
come up for renewal.
    It is unfair to all Ontarians to be held hostage to the selfish demands
of a labour group. Unions should not be allowed to use public fear as a
bargaining chip and this is precisely why CFIB has long advocated that strikes
should not be allowed in the public sector. Instead of threatening the
province with a labour disruption, the union leadership should have weighed
their members' wages and benefits against those of private sector employees to
find out how overly generous they already are.
    CFIB's latest Wage Watch study shows that public sector education workers
in Ontario receive on average nine percent more in annual salary and benefits
than their counterparts in matching positions in the private sector. In fact,
this is a very conservative estimate based on 2006 Census data and the
difference is much higher in the larger cities in the province.
    Your new offer also comes with improved benefits, which undoubtedly
translate to enhanced pension benefits to elementary teachers. While we do not
begrudge anyone the right to save for their own retirement, we strongly oppose
your government's inclination to use the taxpayer as the default go-to
mechanism for covering pension plan shortfalls. The most recent assault on the
Ontario taxpayer occurred last year when your government decided to pour an
additional $300 million into the Ontario Teacher's Pension Plan (OTTP). With
major investment portfolios collapsing in 2008, we wonder how much the
taxpayers' bailout to the OTTP will be this year. Our small business members
are rightly angry that they are being saddled with the funding of lavish
public sector pension plans at a time when they cannot afford anything
remotely comparable for their own retirement.
    Your government will be doing a major disservice to the majority of
taxpayers in the province if the above discrepancies are not addressed. We
welcome your feedback on this issue.



    Catherine Swift
    President & CEO

    Attached:  Wage Watch, 2008
               Canada's Pension Predicament, 2007

For further information:

For further information: If you would like to arrange an interview with
Catherine Swift, call Gisele Lumsden, Adam Miller or Meghan Carrington at:
(416) 222-8022

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