I want to start by apologizing to any regular readers about the lack of posts over the last few weeks. There has been so much I wanted to write about but I feel like I haven't had a moment to breathe, nevermind write.
I am the president of a student workers union in Ontario, and there has been a threat of wage restraint legislation by the Ontario Government. All non-unionized public employees' wages have been frozen for some time now, and the government is going into "consultations" with unions where they plan to get unions to accept two years of zero compensation on their next collective agreements, with the threat of legislating this freeze if we don't agree to it. This is being presented to us as the only way to protect public services.
According to some recent surveys (both the ones conducted by unions and the ones by the government), people seem to think that workers in the public sector are highly overpaid. This is definitely not the case if you look at front line workers in comparison to University Presidents, for example. My membership last got a raise in 2003. Over that period of time, housing has gone up more than 30%, tuition has increased by 4-8% per year more often than not, and the salary of the university's president has increased by approximately 124%! Yet, it is not the president that is overpaid, it is me... and I am making less than half of what some of my peers at other universities make- and nevermind living below the poverty line, my wage doesn't even cover the cost of my education at the school where I work.
I don't believe that forcing workers to take zeros is good for anyone, even those who do earn a living wage, but my point right now in this particular post is that we also need to be careful not to make sweeping generalizations about public sector employees. One of my union colleagues at a different university spoke about how his membership went from about 100 full time janitorial and maintenance staff to about 10 full-time and about 100 part-time, the majority of whom work between 3 and 12 hours per week... I'm pretty sure they don't feel overpaid. I can make many similar comparisons throughout the sector, and I am rather sure that people in different parts of the public sector have similar stories to tell.
I am getting increasingly frustrated with how quickly some people are buying in to these assumptions. I am baffled by how the government can demonize public employees so fully that even the NDP supports wage restraint legislation because doing otherwise would fail to gain votes at the upcoming election.
This government clearly represents the economic elite in the province. And yet, they try to make us feel guilty because many of us have kept our jobs during the recession; so guilty, that we should accept concessions in order to do our part. What about not cutting $4.6 billion dollars in corporate taxes? What about actually protecting our social services by providing services that help people rather than punishing them?
I have yet to figure out how legislation that goes against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as the Labour Relation's Act is supposed to protect Canadians. To me, it is just another example of the Ontario government picking and choosing which Rights Canadians are entitled to, not unlike what happened at the G20... they just spin it the right way in the media and they come off as protecting us. The only thing that we need protection from right now are these neoliberal politicians.