Budget 2012 continues attack on public services and the people who provide them

February 24, 2012

The provincial budget delivered by Finance Minister Kevin Falcon continues the attack on public services started by Gordon Campbell in 2001.

Budget 2012 promises three more years of cuts, continuing the dismantling of critical public services and the failure to invest in the well-being of British Columbians.

The budget also shows the Clark government intends to eliminate another 2,000 public service jobs over the next three years, despite the fact that BC already has the leanest public service of any government in Canada.

Clearly, this budget challenges our ability to achieve fair and reasonable wage settlements in all sectors. Budget 2012 caps increases in public spending to 2 per cent each year, a rate that fails to even keep up with inflation.

The government forecasts a $970 million deficit this year, followed by small surpluses in each of the following two years. The Clark Liberals plan to raise additional revenue by selling off revenue-producing public assets including the Liquor Distribution Branch, increasing MSP rates by another 4 per cent (on top of 18 per cent increases), cancelling a planned reduction to the small business corporate income tax rate, and “possibly” increasing the general corporate tax rate by 1 per cent in 2013.

Eight of the government’s 17 ministries face either budget cuts or spending freezes over the next three years, including cuts to post-secondary and early childhood education.

Not surprisingly, planned increases to the budgets of the remaining ministries fall well below inflation, which effectively means cuts to these ministries as well. The failures and negative impacts of the budget will be felt in various sectors in which BCGEU
members work.

In short, this is not a budget that is concerned with providing quality public services. It is not even a budget that is focused on ‘prudent’ fiscal management – as the provincial debt is forecast to increase to more than $66 billion by 2014.

This budget is about one thing – cynical political posturing, to try to appeal to a shrinking conservative base. British Columbians deserve a budget that values the public services that improve people’s lives and help our economy to grow. Unfortunately, this budget will have the opposite effect, by shrinking the economy and ensuring a continuing crisis in the public service sector. British Columbians deserve better.

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WHY ISN'T THE UNION SEEKING OUR VOTE ON THE 3% INCREASE OFFERED BY THE GOVERNMENT?!? (as reported on Global News). I vote yes to that - not to making threats for more. I would have accepted status quo at 0% for another two years before I'd strike. To strike for money, in this economy, is sheer arrogance. This isn't the 1920s, we are well protected as employees and a small raise isn't a reason to go through everything a strike entails. As public employees we have more than many British Columbians. I have spent half my career in public service - where I have made more money per hour, have better benefits and job security than anywhere in the private sector, doing the same job. Demand more from a Union that takes our money but does not represent the interests of all. Vote NO to a strike, take the government's offer - a win/win.

I cannot afford a paycut every year.

Every year that we don't receive a cost of living increase we are losing money. Every year everything gets more expensive (gas is expected to go to $1.70 this summer)

I cannot afford to live without a cost of living adjustment.

I am tired of my wages decreasing every year

I am a free man
No longer a slave
Oppression is your word not mine
My right was won through the fight of many
Who died on the battle field for my basic liberties
You cannot take it away
It belongs to me

I say strike! We have to be careful not to give up our fundamental rights. We all need to stand together and support one another. Educate the younger workers so they understand what the Union is about.

The BC Government has established different non-profit societies to do work that should be done by government employees. The Virtual School Society is a great example of this. Tens of millions of dollars are funnelled to these organizations each year to do work that there are BCPS staff willing and interested in doing.

Many of these organizations are also staffed through nepotism rather than through a model that acknowledges that these are public funds being used to do this work. They are also run by boards who receive substantial honorariums for little work. When the government cries poor, the BCGEU should be going after them over things like this.

Eliminating these organizations and having their work done by BCGEU members would provide dollars for wage increases and interesting opportunities for advancement.

What I don't understand is why the BC Government is mandating a Net Zero stance, yet some of the Project Managers who are on contract where I work are billing upwards of $750/day (*yes, really, I process their invoices!! )for their services, AND working on contracts for other non-employers using government resources (computers, photocopiers, phones, etc...)A full time government employee can do the same job at a fraction of that price.
We also pay Deloitte and Touché at our location over $3000/day for contractor services - all work that 2 or 3 full time government employees could do for a lot less.

This is extremely frustrating to me as I am an Auxiliary employee who keeps getting his contract extended and not hired full time. I think my solution is to drop the job and bill the government minimum of $600/day for my services..why not, others are doing this and they are happily paying.

seriously you can afford 3 days of strike in order to make a better future for your kids, isnt that the end goal? A better life and better future?...you guys are acting like 1 day of strike will put you onto the street.

I have 2 kids but i am willing to go into debt and overdraft and all of those things to make sure that next year i dont have to struggle when the government cuts daycare subsidy by $15,000.

You have to give a little to get back what is rightfully yours.

I feel it is time to hold a strike vote. And if we get a Strike mandate, then use it wisely. If, on the last day of bargaining in March, there is no agreement, then slap the strike mandate notification on the table and walk away. Tell them that effective April 1st, we walk. Don't be wishy-washy about it. Government is playing hardball, so it is time the BCGEU steps up to the plate and hits right back.
I also think that the union should be making sure that they publicize the lack of wage increases for the past how many contracts? Make certain that the public knows exactly what kinds of increases the BCGEU members have received over the past 10 years, versus what the members of parliament and management have received over the same period.
Give good examples, such as Minister X got this much while all of the employees below him/her/it got 0%. Then compare that 0% with what private industry has received for similar work and what the economy has done. Be very explicit but keep it simple. If you can give the public good solid information, you can win them over to our cause.

We are asked to respect the picket line set up by the teachers' issues. I see both sides of the issue; however, it isn't 'our' fight...it is only to show solidarity and I'm not sure I completely agree with this. But, what really is annoying me is the fact that at one government location an employee arriving to work was bullied and harassed by a picketer; he also stood right in her face. She was very shaken, upset and frightened. Folks, this is not the way to get other unions' members to support you. This individual should be reported and taken to task. If an employee crosses a picket line, they are severely dealt with...and so it should be the same for the bulliers! Didn't we just have an Anti-bullying day last week???

general strike

I do not think we should strike, why cant we just accept the same contract we have had for the past two years and then go back to the bargaining table then. The government and public dont care if we strike, and I end up going into financial turmoil because of it. I am 100% happy taking two more years of zeros. I have a great job and get paid very well. I just hope the negative feelings of the people down in the lower mainland dont impact my way of life in the north. No to a Strike, No to a strike. this is not the time to be flexing our collective muscles. I, for one will not be walking the picket lines if a strike is forced on me. I will go find another job and continue putting food on my families tables.

Is there any provision to get the employer to properly classify positions?

I am torn between both previous comments. Both are true. The larger public does not in this province see Unions in a good light. The media is far too "owned and dominated" by the conservative right and conglomerates. Truly any action taken by one union alone in this climate is futile, as we are seeing with the teachers. The public is far too easily swayed by a media campaign well waged by the government that somehow union members have had it so good for ever and that only now are they clamping down. I have friends who have been union activists in their work lives who were in complete disbelief when I explained how I had not had a wage increase of anything in the last 3 contracts which equal 10 years of time. The public are largely ignorant of the issues at stake because they too are madly trying to just put food on their tables. The "government" ie the corporations that run the government has everyone so on the run we can't see the big picture.
Winter olympics 2010 were not not zero negotiations, all the private parties made a killing on our collective dime. "We" could afford to blow fake snow onto mountain tops for days on end, but we can't afford to ensure our health or education in this province. This government has sold off the crown corporations that brought money into the province for below market value, been ordered in court to remedy this and other violations to our civil rights and yet continue, with the public happily behind them out of sheer ignorance.
SO no matter whether we strike or not is not the relevant question, the question is how do we help the public see what is really happening to the province and its citizens.
If we are not healthy and well educated(ie to at least a high school level) we have no future. We need a new strategy all together.

Wage increases negotiated with our union members should not be automatically given to excluded members of the public service.
Union members are mandated to pay union dues as part of being a member of the BCGEU. Isn't it fair that the recipients of a negotiated wage increase settlement be the employees that have contributed their bi-weekly dues to the union that represents them at the bargaining table ?
The Employer could save millions of dollars by not distributing the wage increase to non-union employees over the duration of the new collective agreement.

I completely agree with Anonymous.

our family finance are getting tighter and tighter and losing a day's pay will make things exceptionally challenging..as an auxillary employee who's contract keeps getting rolled over and not renewed, it may send me looking for work elsehwere.
2. striking would lower the governments expenditures..and i have often wondered if backroom deals are made so that workers will strike and save the governemnt money.
3. The averge person I talk to belives that government workers are lazy and entitles..(not true) and if the current government uses a strike as an election issue to spin in their favour... just look at the BCTF and how they are being villanized...(sp)

There's a lot that still has to happen before we get to the point of taking a strike vote... but some really good points are made here, particularly regarding

'suggest we should walk away from teh current round of collective bargaining and operate under an expired collective agreement until a new government is elected next year.'

It has become clear to me that this government will merely stall and drag feet until job action is threatened and/or taken, and then legislate the striking party back to work, effectively IMPOSING the contract they want on us the employees.
We don't have to agree to that... we shouldn't agree to that... and considering last time we took a contract that was 'worse' than the one which preceded it (with an increase in extended health deductibles, etc), I'm not inclined to support bargaining another step backwards. If the government doesn't want to give us what we've had coming for too long, then we should get up from the bargaining table, continue on our current contract, and turn our attention to defeating this government that shows no regard for anyone but themselves, and return to the table with a sympathetic one at a time of OUR choosing.

Are you going to ensure FAIR for all this time around?

Could we possibly ensure this time around that there is NO wage increase for only one classification? We ALL work hard not just some.

Fairness for ALL please.

I know from a financial stand point I am not in a position that would allow me to vote to strike - it would impact my child too deeply and I am not willing to do that for the gain of less than 10k over the life of the contract. She means more to me than money.

We should think before making a blanket decision on not voting in favour of a strike vote. Here's why:
1) If the bargaining committee does not have a strike mandate to take to the table, the union has little or no leverage to get the employer to compromise on bargaining proposals. A bargaining unit without a strike vote is like begging the employer to help their employees out of the goodness of their hearts. And we all know how much 'goodness' there is in this government.
2) Job action, if needed, must be strategic. Everyone would not go on strike, as it is largely counter-productive. Plus, there is essential services legislation that restricts how many employees in many workplaces can be picketed off.
3) Some are in a financial position to take 2 more zeroes. Many are not. Inflation has been eroding our wages, and steady increases in fees, like MSP, and Hydro, ferries and other items are eroding workers' purchasing power. The least the union should settle for is an increase to match the cost of living.

Hi Daryl, At the teachers rally on Tuesday someone used the term Anette Zero .... Kind of a joke but personalizing the term. We know Anette Zero is around, but would really like to send her off someplace..... Maybe to the Premier's office where she could meet some of the CEOs or some of the big contractors looking to renew contracts. Have some fun with this...... It could help .....

The arrogance of this government still surprises me. I know, you might wonder why, but I guess I would like to think that logic and the well being of British Columbian citizens would be considered part of the equation; but again this has been blatantly ignored.
I really hope that the scare tactics the government is using .. "cutting more jobs" .. does not influence our Bargaining committee to place a decreased importance on gaining us a pay increase. I am sure the government is hoping we will shift our focus to job security negotiations but this will not help any of us in the long run.
A clear mandate was sent by members that a zero increase was not acceptable this time around. Stay strong in solidarity ... focus on members mandate for bargaining.

Hi Darryl. It is clear to me we are not going to get a settlement through collective bargaining at this time that will come close to restoring the 5% we have lost in earnings power over the last couple of years.
If possible, I suggest we should walk away from the current round of collective bargaining and operate under an expired collective agreement until a new government is elected next year. The union's energies could then be focused on doing whatever is necessary to ensure this government is not re-elected next year.
I suggest that the union should not seek a mandate to strike from its members at this point in time for three main reasons:
1. Many of our members are suffering financially and cannot afford to lose even a day's pay.
2. Going on strike would benefit this government by lowering its salary expenditures for the year.
3. The government is not going to back down on this issue and may use a strike as an election issue.
If possible, I would like to see the money we have in our strike fund reallocated to help members who are suffering financially - perhaps by instituting a union dues holiday until the next election (if the funds would cover that far). In solidarity and with all respect.