Public wages barely keeping pace

It is misleading to refer to public sector workers as a whole

I take issue with parts of your March 25 editorial, in particular the statement, “Wages paid to public sector workers have ballooned.”

I work in the public sector, in health care, and can report that wage increases for my colleagues and me in B.C. have barely kept pace with inflation for over a decade.

And neither should anyone fear that we will be raiding the public purse any time soon, as our scheduled increases for the next five years will be in the range of 1.0 to 1.5 per cent.

It is misleading to refer to public sector workers as a whole.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) report Wage Watch looks at seven different occupational groupings, by province, and shows large variations in the public/private differential across groups and provinces. Health care workers show the smallest differential overall, and in particular in B.C., where virtually no difference is seen between public and private wage rates.

You cite a number of reasons that explain why private sector wages are lower, especially since the economic downturn of 2008. However, a section of the CFIB report entitled Payroll developments since 2010 shows that private sector wages have increased by 13.8 per cent over this period – a larger increase than that seen for four of five public sector groups compared over the same period.

This increase is substantially equivalent to that claimed in your assertion that, “most public sector employees are likely making about 15 percent more than they were in 2008.” It would seem to indicate that the private sector suffered a setback but is now recovering, as would be expected in a fluctuating market economy.

For another view of this issue, readers can access the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report Narrowing the Gap (Oct. 2014) or PressProgress’s response to the CFIB report.

Brenda McNair

Campbell River