The Ontario majority government's first negotiated labour deal appears to hold the line on bureaucrats' salaries, setting a tempo that could help Kathleen Wynne make good on the Liberals' pledge to keep salaries flat.
The provisional four-year-deal sets pay at two years of zero-per-cent increases, followed by two years of 1.4-per-cent increases – with the government making concessions in some non-salaried benefits.
These numbers, which had not been previously disclosed, were agreed to last weekend by leaders of the province's second-largest civil-service union.
They are significant in that they set a precedent for a government facing a $12.5-billion deficit that is a growing source of concern to its bondholders.
In the months ahead, the province faces difficult negotiations with several other public-sector unions – teachers, jail guards, and other bureaucrats – collectively representing tens of thousands of workers.
The new deal is tentative, pending a vote by the 12,000-member, white-collar union, known as the Association of Management, Administrative and Professional Crown Employees of Ontario (AMAPCEO).
"I have no reticence in recommending that the AMAPCEO membership accept this deal," said Gary Gannage, president of the union.
"Yeah, it's got a couple of zeros from an austerity environment, but it also shows some enhancements and improvements in areas that matter to people," he said in an interview.
He pointed to gains in contract language about matters such as time off, job security and health-care benefits. "We managed to prevent other attacks and concessions and clawbacks that were part of the employers' initial proposals," he said.
AMAPCEO represents policy analysts, economists, auditors, scientists and veterinarians.