August 3, 2013 Updated on August 15, 2013
By Andrew Phillip Chernoff
I came across an article titled, “The pay of government workers is way out of line” by Jordan Bateman.
At the start of his opinion piece, Bateman, makes a conclusion that is somewhat true in municipal politics, but also provincial, federal politics. Even private business, multi-national companies and private corporations practice overpaying their upper management people.
- Taxpayers and watchdogs often focus their attention on the top of the government salary spectrum. Government executives are increasingly overpaid, especially at the municipal and regional district level. And the problem is growing.
- For example, the District of North Vancouver, had 62 employees making $100,000 or more in 2011. A year later, that number had jumped to 93.
Then Bateman goes off into his way out stupor and churns out that “taxpayers are overpaying for labour throughout the system.”
Provincial government deals with their own government employees.
Municipalities and regional districts are separate and distinct from the provincial government and negotiate on their own with their respective employees.
Front-line municipal and regional district workers are not overpaid in my opinion.
Front line workers have wages and benefits that have been negotiated in fair and good faith bargaining in line with their respective municipal and regional district finances of which their councils and boards are charged with being proper stewards of.
Management contracts are not negotiated in the same manner as above.
The public never hears anything in the press, radio or television as to what the management staff in municipalities and regional districts are getting in their contracts….unless somebody applies under the Freedom of Information Act. Through the Statement of Financial Information, which is made available every year, for the last audited year, taxpayers are able to find out some salaries of municipal staff and council members.
Yet the employees have a very public collective agreement that spells it all out. Yet, management contracts are hidden under private and confidential legislation for the most part…..just saying
Front line workers at the municipal and regional district level do the grunt work out in the field. It is the non-management employees that have the qualifications and certification to do the work on the front line. And work they do.
Front line workers correct the mistakes of contractors; don’t play politics when working; and are the first to hear of the public dissatisfaction.
Municipalities and regional districts MUST balance their budgets.
Provincial governments while they should balance their budgets, are more often than not, tabling unbalanced budgets.
Bateman then defies all sense of logic by taking on the City of Burnaby with its desire to hire a bartender for a wage negotiated through collective bargaining, providing a wage higher than minimum wage:
- The City of Burnaby is looking for a bartender. B.C.’s minimum wage is $10.25 per hour but liquor servers can legally be paid as little as $9 per hour, plus tips (where they make their real living). Ignoring the bizarre idea that property taxpayers have a bartender on the payroll, Burnaby should be able to get a suitable swill slosher for $10.25 per hour, tops.
- But this is government – where your hard-earned money gets spent freely. Instead, Burnaby is offering its future bartender $13.65 per hour and 12 per cent cash-in-lieu of benefits, plus tips. That’s $15.29 per hour plus tips, for a job that could be filled for 70 per cent less.
For twelve years the corporate tax rate in BC with a BC Liberal government in power was kept at 10 per-cent.
During that same period, BC has consistently had the worst child poverty rate in Canada and the worst reputation for providing support to highly vulnerable families and children in Canada as well.
According to the article, “ Why does B.C. have the highest poverty rate in Canada?” by Iglika Ivanova:
“The reason why B.C. has the worst poverty rates in Canada is not poor economic performance but lack of social spending, a large low-wage sector, and big gender pay gaps, especially at the low end.
The government needs to step up with a comprehensive poverty reduction plan to boost social supports to a level that covers basic costs of living. Other immediate priorities include providing affordable, universal child care for families (for example, the $10/day plan) and investing in affordable housing for families.
Training and education also jumps out as an area of government responsibility that hasn’t received enough attention over the last decade. That’s why many of the newly created resource sector jobs aren’t going to unemployed British Columbians but to temporary foreign workers and/or migrants from other provinces because we don’t have the skills needed. And since resource expansion is essentially the basis of our government’s Jobs Plan, such job growth is unlikely to make much of a dent in poverty rates.
But while the government must play a leadership role here, poverty is not just the government’s problem. All citizens have a responsibility to tackle poverty, including those who own and run businesses. Business managers are understandably focused on their bottom line, but as members of the community they need to consider the kind of jobs they create, and the kind of life their employees can afford on the wages they pay. Is there job security? Are the wages so low or the shifts/hours so few that they keep the employees in poverty?
35 Vancouver employers have committed to pay a living wage to all their workers and more large companies should follow their example.
But not all jobs created in B.C. are well-paying, family-supporting jobs that offer benefits and a reasonable level of economic security. Despite recent minimum wage increases, a person working full-year full-time on minimum wage earns less than the poverty line for a single person in Vancouver. There has been an explosion of unpaid internships, with the most recent scandal exposed by CBC here.
The bottom line is that we need a combination of good quality jobs and social supports for families who have fallen on hard times. This is particularly important now when we’re seeing a worrisome and rather steep increase in poverty in what’s arguably the best measure of poverty, Statistics Canada’s Market Basket Measure (see here).
Poverty is not an intractable problem, other provinces and countries have taken action and are seeing results. B.C. should too.”
Would Bateman regulate everybody, including himself, to a below poverty line lifestyle?
I call on Bateman to give up his upper tax level “living wage” for the bartender’s job and wage for one year, and then tell his readers the same thing he is saying now.
It is clear that the City of Burnaby, and other municipalities, regional districts are doing their part to provide above minimum wage jobs where they can; to insure stable economies in their communities and regions, where the monies they give in wages are not only possible but are put back in local and regional economies providing spin off jobs and new business opportunities; diversifying local and regional economies at the same time.
Bateman further proposes legislation similar to CETA, that would take local autonomy and control away for decision making by municipalities and regional districts.
Once again, Bateman lacks knowledge and shows his ignorance and audacity to impose his political will and beliefs for all municipalities and regional districts, considering he lives in one community and belongs to one regional district.
Municipalities and regional districts levy taxes in their respective areas. The provincial government does not provide municipalities and regional districts with their operational budgets.
I would tread lightly Bateman, when you suggest, a provincial Compensation Equity Act.
Municipal and regional district employees are not provincial government employees. The Community Charter and Local Government Act, set out the powers of the municipalities and regional districts.
Further, many BC municipalities and regional districts have told the provincial government of their concerns and lack of support for CETA.
I guarantee Bateman if you come to my community and try to impose your ridiculous ideas, you would be met by concerned taxpayers who may not take to kindly to you interfering with local autonomy and local democratic decision making for affairs affecting the community and region.
Further, I would find it difficult to believe that what happens in Penticton, Richmond, Kelowna and the regional districts those communities reside in, presents hardship and dire tax consequences to his community and regional district.
If anything, people from those communities visiting where he lives, would actually aide his community as they spend their hard earned dollars, helping his local business; help to provide living wages for workers including students going to high school and earning money for post secondary education.
Would Bateman really deny what he benefited from?
I would argue that multinationals and corporations benefiting from low cost labour in BC, ravaging our natural resources; leaving taxpayers to live with the cost to our wildlife, environment and water, are the leaders behind the inequality issues in this province.
They take……10 per-cent corporate tax rate for twelve years, until this year when it was changed to…..wait for it…to 11 per-cent.
They don’t give back…..why?
They use tax payers dollars; take our raw materials; abuse BC labour workers; make gross profits; do nothing to improve well-paying, family-supporting jobs that offer benefits and a reasonable level of economic security.
Bateman’s ideas, and the system he proposes doesn’t work for the best interests of British Columbians, municipalities or regional districts.
If Bateman is advocating a race to the floor for “minimum wage”, then by all means…..you first….. lead the way Bateman…..get out in front…..I’ll give you a push……just saying…..
COPYRIGHT ANDREW PHILLIP CHERNOFF 2013