Ontario Budget adds up to less funding and more intervention

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OCUFA is disappointed that today’s provincial budget effectively cuts university resources while signaling increased government intervention in labour relations.

“If you look behind the numbers in the budget, the government is providing less money to universities than recommended by Don Drummond,” said Constance Adamson, President of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA). “University education is one of the best investments a government can make to promote economic growth. It is too bad that the government has missed this important fact in their deficit reduction strategy.”

In his report on public sector reform, Don Drummond recommended that university funding increase by 1.5 per cent per year. In the face of rising enrolment and inflation, this would mean an effective cut to university operating funding. Surprisingly, the 2012 Budget goes even further than Drummond, limiting yearly increases to an average of one per cent. This leaves universities with $46 million less funding than Drummond recommended, and far less money than they need to provide high quality education for every student.

Professors and librarians are also concerned about the apparent willingness of the Government of Ontario to consider intervention in collective bargaining at Ontario universities. The budget signals the government’s interest in sector-wide bargaining, top-down pension reform, and steering compensation settlements. Ontario’s universities and faculty have a long history of responsible local bargaining sensitive to local needs, the sector’s bottom line, and the interests of Ontario’s citizens. Many of the government’s proposals could seriously harm this record of success.

“We will hold the government to their promise that they will consult meaningfully on pensions, compensation, and bargaining,” said Adamson. “If the outcome is predetermined, then there is no point consulting. But if they really want to work with the sector, professors and academic librarians are ready as always with ideas and insights that promote fair and responsible collective bargaining.”

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