MPP calls for public sector wage ceiling

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Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield is calling for a limit to be imposed on public sector salaries following information this week that Gary Switzer, former chief executive officer of the Erie St. Clair Local Health Integration Network could be in line for a half-million dollar severance package.

Switzer was terminated from the $289,900 a year position in May without cause. Under his contract, he could be owed $553,916, the equivalent of 22 months pay plus one month for every year of employment after April 1, 2015.

Hatfield, who obtained information about the settlement through a Freedom of Information request, said he finds the amount troubling.

“I have no idea about the rest of the LHINs, but if we have these kinds of golden parachutes for all of them, we are tying up millions that could go to direct, hands-on health care. We’re draining the system to provide excessive compensation for a few.”

He compared the value of Switzer’s salary and settlement to that of a local not-for profit entity.

“The Windsor Residence for Young Men has a total budget of $235,000 and does an excellent job of keeping at risk youth off the streets,” he said. “When you compare that work to the salary paid for high level bureaucrats I don’t think there is any question which one is more valuable to the community.”

He said he has raised the issue of public sector salaries at the committee level without much success.

“There is not enough control or oversight,” he said. “There was discussion about making more of this information public but (former health minister) Deb Matthews turned it down because it is so embarrassing to the government.”

“The scary thing is that the premier makes a certain amount of money, the cabinet ministers make a certain amount of money but when it gets to the general public service there is no ceiling. We’re paying the heads of LHINs and others whatever they tell us they are worth.”

LHIN board chairman Martin Girash said his group is sensitive to the amount of money involved.

“Most people understand that through the decades, the system has changed and we have provisions today that we know are quite favourable (to employees) that we know we are not able to continue.”

Girash said the LHIN was successful in removing provisions in Switzer’s contract that called for up to a 14 per cent annual bonus.

“When we negotiated the contract last year we knew we needed to remove that provision but it cost us a one time payment ($16,150) to do that. In the long term, we did the right thing because going forward we’ve taken steps to control expenses in keeping with resources we have.”

Girash said his subsequent employment salary could affect the total amount of the severance by as much as 50 per cent.

Switzer had accepted a position as interim CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Canada but has since left the organization.

“We were legally bound to honour the contract and we will of course, do so,” he said. “We will ensure that we pay what’s required, no more or less.”

Ralph Ganter has replaced Switzer on an interim basis. Girash said there are no immediate plans to fill the position until after the province passes its new Patients First legislation.

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