Thursday, January 12, 2012

BC public sector enters 2012 bargaining

This week saw the beginning of a new round of public sector bargaining, with most public sector unions entering negotiations for 2012 agreements.

The government has already stated their intention to continue the "net zero" mandate through Mandate 2012. The government will only agree to gains if they are "off-set" by cost savings elsewhere in the agreement.

There has already been media speculation of potential job action, as the government is asking workers who have just had two years of no wage increase, to take two more years of no wage increase.

At the same time, many union members have told their leadership this is not acceptable. "No more zeros" is the quote from BCGEU president Darryl Walker on his blog ( He continues: "Eighty-five percent of BCGEU members’ contracts expire on March 31, 2012. Our members that provide key services to British Columbians have been under a wage freeze for the past two years. When you take inflation into account, our members have lost four-and-a-half percent of their income."

The Hospital Employees' Union secretary-business manager Bonnie Pearson made similar remarks about Mandate 2012: "I think all of you know that on the front lines of health care where you work, there’s not a lot of savings to be had,” said Pearson. “Any low-hanging fruit – it’s been picked. It’s been canned and it’s been eaten....And I’ll be damned if we’re going to spend this round of bargaining looking under the seat cushions for spare change. We’re not at the bargaining table to find ways to cut services to patients and residents – we’re there to provide quality care to British Columbians.”

Health Sciences Association of BC (HSABC) similarly stated: “HSABC/NUPGE members served notice at the beginning of this year that continuing to fall behind our counterparts in other provinces is not an option."

The Conference Board of Canada has stated that BC is expecting  economic growth of 2.5% this year and 3.5% growth in 2013. This comes after a 3% expansion in 2011. BC is not experiencing a recession. BC is experiencing moderate growth.

Inflation shows similar trends. BC's inflation rate now sits at 2.3% but is higher for food, which is running at 3.6% In fact, many of the costs for families are growing at a much faster clip: electricity - 6.7%, home owner insurance - 12.7%, energy - 8.9%. (see:

These expenses are rising as after-tax pay cheques shrink due to increases in MSP premiums, CPP premiums and EI premiums.

So what is the impact of Mandate 2010 and Mandate 2012? Significant decreases in the purchasing power of public sector workers. Otherwise known as a pay cut.

This impacts not only those workers' families, but also the communities in which they live. Middle income earners typically spend more of their income than high income earners, having a greater benefit for small businesses in their local communities.

It is no wonder so many of these workers are telling their leadership - no more.

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