Net zero saved B.C. taxpayers $3 billion this year. That’s seven per cent of the entire budget.
Sometimes the chattering classes criticize policies (rarely, but it happens). Usually it’s politics (and sometimes, personalities). Policies and politics are part of government, so I’m okay with that. But when policies are misinterpreted and/or deliberately mis-spun to gain political advantage, Canadians tune out.
That’s what’s happening now in B.C. The governing BC Liberals have been accused of handing out raises to various assistants. This has union leaders like Darryl Walker (BCGEU) and Susan Lambert (BCTF) blathering on about how unfair net zero is to their workers, when these guys can get raises.
So let’s do some myth busting.
First, the actual document. Of 43 people listed, 23 had salary changes. One individual’s salary went down due to a demotion, so 22 “got raises.”
Of those 22 remaining, seven raises were the result of promotions. So that’s okay—leaving 15 with raises.
Of those 15, ten went up one step in their respective pay bands. Perhaps their seniority put them up a level—that happens in every part of the public service, including net zero contracts. That’s going to happen in any workplace.
That leaves five people where you might want to get more details on, if possible:
- An EA in the Office of the Premier went up three steps—curious.
- An MA switched from Justice to Jobs, Tourism and Innovation and went up two steps—some ministers with larger portfolios have two MAs; it’s entirely possible that this individual went from sharing an MA workload to soloing. Worth asking about.
- An EA in Aboriginal Relations went up two steps—curious but not unheard of.
- An EA switched from Agriculture to Environment and went up two steps—could there have been some extenuating circumstance, like a significant change involved?
- An MA switched from Health to Finance and went up two steps; most would agree Finance is a far more complex ministry, the most important in government—could that have contributed to the raise?
I’m not out to defend raises for government employees, but net zero is too an important a tool to lose to union spin and innuendo. To suggest that these raises flies in the face of net zero is ludicrous. For real net zero hypocrisy, see the BCTF’s net zero offer to their office staff.
We’re big fans of net zero because it works. Net zero has been the single most effective tool we have seen used to control B.C. spending and the only thing that has kept B.C. within sniffing distance of balancing the budget.
Net zero—negotiating contracts that find savings within existing provisions to fund any increases elsewhere—saved B.C. taxpayers $3 billion this year. That’s seven per cent of the entire budget.
Public sector pay scales have become out of whack with the private sector. In the past ten years, the average government worker has seen their pay jump 35% to $1,023 a week. The average private sector worker, meanwhile, has seen their pay grow five points slower—just under 30%–and only to $777 a week, $250 less than their government counterpart.
Nine out of ten government employees have workplace pension plans. Just over two out of ten private sector workers do. And while 81% of those government employees have the ultra expensive defined benefit pensions—only 14% of private sector Canadians do.
Look at teachers. The public pay sunshine list is full of thousands and thousands of teachers earning more than $75,000 a year, on top of what the BCTF itself calls “the best kept secret” in public pensions—a total benefit package pegged at almost $15,000 annually. The BCTF’s demand that government cut everyone else’s pay through increased taxes to raise their’s should be ignored.
Net zero is not a pay freeze. In net zero, people still get raises as they work their way up the seniority ladder. Unions can still get raises for their workers—if they can find corresponding savings within the contract. The net zero concept is fairer than a simple pay freeze, more effective, and (with the notable exception of the militants in the BC Teachers Federation) was more palatable to unions, moving the vast majority of them to net zero settlements.
Net zero is a model that should be replicated by other red-ink governments across Canada—we’re looking at you, Ontario. It works. It saves money. And it still gives unions the chance to find improvements through trade-offs—it encourages better efficiency and use of taxpayer-funded resources.
- post by Jordan Bateman