Imposed wage freezes bad policy

This past week, MPPs debated a Progressive Conservative bill that would impose an across-the-board wage freeze on all public-sector workers.
I am not opposed to the concept of wage freezes, in the right situation. But they need to be fair, make financial sense, apply equally to all, and be done legally.
The PC proposal does not do this and it would result in a monumental bill to taxpayers.
Wage freezes can be successfully obtained through negotiation. When the province is in a restrictive financial position, both sides often get together to find solutions that work for everyone.
Too often, though, government takes the easy way out by opting to legislate a freeze.
This is the case with the PC bill, which was based on buzz words and ideology, and proposed no positive effect on the province’s financial bottom line.
In the last six months, we’ve seen other contract legislation that was introduced under the guise of financial restraint that also was supported by the PCs. The effect of Bill 115 was disastrous, wreaking havoc on our education system.
There are other examples of how costly legislated contracts can be, such as in B.C. in 2007, when the Supreme Court ruled the province’s legislated contracts were unconstitutional.
In that case, it ended up costing B.C. taxpayers $85 million more than the negotiated contract would have.
Forcing front-line staff to bear the brunt of our provincial economic mess is unfair and unreasonable. We are all in this together and we all need to make sacrifices.
Imposing a wage freeze on reasonably paid front-line staff, while continuing to reward well-paid managers with automatic bonuses, also is unreasonable.
In 2011, 98 percent of eligible public service managers received bonuses, costing the provincial treasury $35.6 million. Bringing an end to these bonuses, and capping public CEO salaries at $418,000, can save us millions of dollars annually.
By closing tax loopholes and making permanent changes to input tax credits, we can bring in $1.3 billion annually by 2019. And by working with the federal government to improve tax compliance, we can bring in another $200 million a year by 2017-18.
Earlier last week, the PCs tabled another reckless motion that tried to force teachers to perform extra-curricular activities. While we all understand the importance of extra-curriculars, they are, by definition, unpaid volunteer activities.
Had this motion passed, it would have resulted in another court challenge and more unnecessary costs for the province.
If the PCs were sincere about protecting extra-curricular activities, they should have voted against Bill 115, which led to the withdrawal of these services in the first place.
It is yet another example where the Conservatives have taken an “act first, worry about the consequences later” approach.
Elected officials have an obligation to keep costs under control while ensuring stability in our public services. The best way to ensure this happens is to respect all people in this province and to work with our partners to find mutually-beneficial solutions.
Rhetoric and fear mongering may make headlines, but they end up costing all of us more in the long run.

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