FOULDS: Shining the light on perks afforded the public sector
There has been much debate over the provincial government’s net-zero mandate, the B.C. Liberals’ recent negotiating stance predicated on finding savings within existing provisions to fund any increases elsewhere.
There has also been much complaining among public-sector unions.
While net-zero was not an official mandate adopted at the municipal level, the annual one per cent to three per cent salary increases enjoyed by many city workers in B.C. in recent contracts are luxurious compared to what is happening in Scranton, Pa.
The mayor of the city best known as the home of fictitious Dunder-Mifflin Paper Company featured in the NBC comedy remake The Office has reduced wages of city employees to levels local paperboys and babysitters would reject.
Mayor Christopher Doherty introduced the new hourly wage of $7.25 for police officers, firefighters, garbage collectors — and for himself.
This is all part of the dilemma facing Scranton, which stares at a $16.8-million budget deficit. It’s either massive service cuts, a 78 per cent tax hike over three years or the pauper’s wage across the board.
It’s ugly and the battle will eventually rage in the courts.
Compared to Scranton, employees of Kamloops and other B.C. municipalities are living like royalty, according to a recent study conducted by the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of B.C. (ICBA).
The association looked at compensation packages afforded city employees and found pay and benefits packages are an astonishing 30 to 40 per cent higher than that given workers doing identical jobs in the private sector.
Take Kamloops, for example, where city workers enjoy dental, medical, extended-health and group life-insurance benefits courtesy of you, the taxpayer.
Did you know Kamloops’ city workers don’t pay a dime toward their benefits package? It is funded 100 per cent by taxpayers.
Why, when virtually every private company has an employee/employer-pay structure?
Did you know Kamloops workers are afforded 18 sick days a year and that, upon retirement, they can cash in up to 120 accumulated sick days?
That’s six months’ pay for doing nothing but show up at work, as we are expected to do.
It’s outrageous — all of it.
When the contract expires at the end of 2013, it will be interesting to see if the powers-that-be at city hall will acknowledge how out-of-control municipal pay-and-benefits packages have become.
ICBA president Philip Hochstein is on the mark when he sums it up: “These gold-plated pay and perk packages are the main reason why city hall never turns around to tell you your taxes are going down.
“What’s unfair about the situation is you’re being asked to send more money to the taxman off your paycheque to subsidize increases so civic workers can get pay and pension richer than yours.”
The Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation (CTF) concurs when looking at the rising disparity in pay and benefits between the public and private sectors.
The CTF notes that, in the past 10 years, the average government worker has seen their pay jump by 35 per cent to $1,023 a week. The average private-sector worker, meanwhile, has seen their pay increase by less than 30 per cent, to $777 a week.
Nine out of 10 government employees have workplace pension plans, the CTF notes, while two out of 10 private sector workers have plans, with 81 per cent of government employees enjoying defined (guaranteed income regardless of investment performance) plans, compared to only 14 per cent of private-sector workers enjoying the more-expensive benefit.
The structure is not sustainable and not fair to those funding it — taxpayers living on the fiscal edge more and more each year.