In a letter published in The Regina Leader-Post and The Saskatoon Star Phoenix, President Tom Graham makes the case a 3.5 per cent cut to compensation for public sector workers in the upcoming provincial budget will not only be grossly unfair and possibly illegal; it will also be bad for the economy.
The full letter, as published, is below:
Cutting public sector workers wages would be unfair and unwise
Published on: March 21, 2017 in The Regina Leader-Post (A5) and The Saskatoon Star Phoenix (A5)
The Saskatchewan budget, which will be tabled on Wednesday, will include a 3.5 per cent cut to compensation for public sector workers. Doing this will not only be grossly unfair and possibly illegal; it will also be bad for the economy.
Why is the premier focused on cutting public sector workers? Public sector wages have not kept up with inflation and these workers didn’t cause the deficit — it was caused by a drop in resource revenues and questionable spending. In the six years since 2010, base wages increases for Saskatchewan public sector workers averaged just 1.66 per cent, below the average 1.8 per cent inflation rate for that period. With the government’s plans to cut compensation by 3.5 per cent this year, public sector workers’ real wages will decline by more than five per cent, after accounting for inflation.
Some low-paid public sector workers, like group home workers who work with disabled adults, have had their wages frozen for the last two years, equal to a real wage cut of 2.7 per cent.
Public sector workers, like most working families in the province, are just desperately trying to get by on their incomes. Unlike the premier, with his annual salary of $166,000, they can’t afford a 3.5 per cent cut to their wages. For the average CUPE member earning $34,000 a year, a 3.5 per cent cut in compensation will mean an average $1,190 cut to their annual income, and a real cut of over $1,700 if you factor in inflation.
After years of low wage increases, most public sector working families have little or nothing left over at the end of the month after paying their bills. Cuts to their compensation will mean they’ll have to cut spending elsewhere: less on their kids and less at local businesses, which will impact the economy.
Cuts to compensation and wages will also deteriorate our public services, whether it occurs through cuts in days of work or through cuts in wages. This could mean fewer EAs in the classroom, longer waits for health services or fewer care aides in nursing homes.
Analysis we’ve done shows the government could balance its budget by 2020, before the next election, by focusing on growing the economy and without making draconian cuts. We’ve also outlined better alternatives.
These would not only be more sensible for the economy, they would also demonstrate compassion for the people who deliver and depend on public services instead of the callous, unwise and likely illegal course of action the premier seems set on.
President, CUPE Saskatchewan
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