The Truth about Public Sector Wages

Once a month, North Okanagan Labour Council President David Doran is given the opportunity to set the business community straight with a column in Kelowna's Capital News newspaper. Here's his column for Dec. 12, 2001:

It is often quoted that the public service sector is out of touch with reality in their demands for pay increases.

A quick look at some of the public sector areas may dispel these ideas. Inflation since the mid-'90s has been pegged at 6.8 per cent.

The last real wage increase for nurses was in 1995, which was 2.5 per cent. If we do a comparison with our neighbouring province, we see that the nurses wage rate has always been slightly higher in B.C.

Even under the Klein government, nurses in Alberta received a 22.5 per cent increase.

Staying with the health sector, physiotherapists, pharmacists and occupational therapists earn more in the private sector than the public.

Similar arguments can be made for the education sector of our public service. Teachers have only received a two-per-cent wage increase since 1992.

Alberta teachers make approximately $2000 per year more than B.C. teachers and they have no essential services legislation.

In Ontario the gap is far wider with teachers receiving $11,000 to $12,000 more than their counterparts in B.C.

Let us not forget that teachers are expected to accommodate the students often at the expense of their own families.

The starting wage for a dental hygienist in BC $49,800. For a teacher $37,700 All too often when the public sector gets to the bargaining table they are told there is no money.

In this case, the Liberal government has created this reality. Of its projected $6 billion debt up to 2003-04, half has been created in the government's first 90 days.

It is common knowledge that there is a shortage of trained personnel in the public sector.

There is an acute shortage of nurses in the province. Education in specific areas has a critical shortage, some being science, industrial arts and special education. These problems will be exacerbated within the next five years when as many as 30 per cent of our nurses and teachers retire.

In Premier Gordon Campbell's own words: "if you want to attract people, you have to pay them properly." Honoring collective agreements should be part of that.

That's sound advice if we wish to recruit and retain people in our public service, but obviously that is not the intention of this government, which seems to believe all men are equal but some (deputy ministers) are more equal than others.

How can anybody expect people to work for an employer who constantly bullies, beats them up mentally and changes the rules on a regular basis?

The public sector is not out of touch with its demands.

We have a government that is out of touch with the working class.

We want a strong health services sector, we want a strong education sector and we want all those things the Liberals promised in their election campaign and were elected on: No cuts to health care or education, which includes pay increases to cover the losses to inflation and fair bargaining with the integrity to honour a collective agreement.

I don't believe anyone voted for a leaky-condo type of public service, nor the type of deceit that has been coming from Victoria.


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