B.C. Residents want Pay Equity between Public, Private Sector: Clark calls idea ‘interesting’; union says jobs are hard to compare

Media Appearances, Public Sector, Frontier Centre

Four out of five British Columbians say government employees should be paid the same amount as people doing the same jobs in the private sector, according to an Angus Reid survey commissioned by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Almost three-quarters of the 804 people in the online survey also agreed that they would support provincial legislation – a Compensation Equity Act – to bring pay and benefits for provincial and municipal governments on a more equal footing with other British Columbians. The poll conducted between March 16 to 18 is considered accurate to within plus or minus 3.5 per cent.

"This is a clear message to politicians, of every stripe and in every jurisdiction, that the time has come to rein in ever-growing pay and benefits for government workers," said Jordan Bateman, the B.C. director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

The federation is a non-profit group that advocates for lower taxes in Canada.

The federation, which has 70,000 members across Canada, stated in the survey that government employees are paid, on average, 10-per-cent more than private sector employees for the same work.

Total compensation, including benefits, is 30 per cent higher, stated the federation.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation cites as the source for its wage gap estimate studies by right-wing think-tank the Fraser Institute, as well as the Frontier Centre for Public Policy and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

The groups, including the tax-payers federation, have been trying to put pressure on governments to reduce or curtail public sector wages and benefits.

A recent Canadian Union of Public Employees study found little difference between public sector and private sector pay for similar jobs.

Premier Christy Clark said she hasn't had a chance to examine the taxpayers federation's survey in detail, but said she was going to give their pay equity idea "some serious thought."

In response to a reporter's question at a press conference to announce funding for a new mental health facility at Vancouver General Hospital, the premier said pay equity is an "interesting concept."

"I can understand why it intuitively appeals to taxpayers because most people are out there in the private sector earning a living, and paying for the public sector out of those paycheques," said Clark.

She pointed to the province's net-zero bargaining policy with its public sector unions as a step in trying to constrain public sector wages.

Under the strategy, which has prompted a lengthy dispute with teachers, the B.C. government will not agree to wage increases unless savings can be found elsewhere.

Darryl Walker, president of the B.C. Government Employees Union, said it is often hard to compare jobs in the public sector such as corrections officers to those in the private sector where there is no equivalent.

Walker took exception to public sector workers being the "whipping dog" every time somebody decides taxes are too high. "Why the race to the bottom? Why is it that somebody has to have something taken away from them, in order for somebody else to feel better," he said.