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

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.

Not Reason Enough to Strike

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.

Not Reason Enough to Strike

We all have differing views when it comes to a strike vote and I respect yours.

The other side is we have already taken 0/0 and yet the cost of living has continued to increase. Therefore we have taken a significant cut in pay if you take in the cost of living. Our benefits are not any better, my significant other gets $40 reimbursed for each Chiro/physio/massage therapy, not the $5 we get, he can get eye glasses every year to a max of $300/yr gets the same holidays...need I go on? I have seen a number of Government workers leave to go to the Private Sector because the pay and benefits are better than Goverment.

I'm not saying that the economy doesn't play a factor in budget restraints, however, the higher ups in Victoria continue to get pay raises, astronomical buyouts, free gourmet lunches, unlimited travel budgets...we are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars on Long Term Service awards each year (including paying for the employee's spouses expenses) and yet they can't give the front end people a raise?

Sorry...I will suffer if a strike happens, but I'm willing to sacrifice for what is right and deserved. It's time the front end people get a break before we all hit the breaking point.

What do you think you would be making wihtout a union?

Without union representation, we would likely be making minimum wage, with few if any benefits, and maybe 2 weeks holiday a year if you are lucky. And pension? Do you think the government would automatically give it's employers a pension without a union?

The wages and benefits we enjoy are the result of hard work and sacrifice by generations of activists. It wasn't long ago when strikes in the public service were illegal.

Strike votes are about strength and unity, so that the union can return to the bargaining table and negotiate from strength. Do you think the employer would automatically give anyone a wage increase if the members were not supporting their bargaining committee?

My union is one of the most democratic and accountable of any union in BC or Canada. Have a look at how the bargaining process works before making blanket statement like this (http://www.bcgeu.ca/bargaining101).

I can't afford a paycut every year

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

Don't let go of what's ours

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.

Get Rid of Arm's Length Societies to Save Money

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.

Re: Get Rid of Arm's Length Societies to Save Money

Wow, I looked at the site the Virtual School society runs and I can't figure out why this is being run by contractors rather than BC govt employees. It is being run to serve BC students and is paid for with tax dollars.

Can anyone tell me what other groups exist like this? I want to complain to my MLA about this. I also can't believe that the union isn't doing more to get work like this moved back into government.

When I look at the VSS they've been around for more than 5 years. This means that government is looking at these services as being provided for long time and so the functions really need to be treated as government functions and done by government workers.

Contractors and the Provincial Government huge waste of $$

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.

to all the people not wanting to strike

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.

It's not about a srike

Taking a strike vote doesn't mean we naturally go out on strike. It is the primary way that members can support their bargaining committee and put pressure on the employer to negotiate a fair agreement.

A strong strike vote sends the message that the membership support their members at the bargaining table. A weak strike vote says that the membership is divided, which strengthens the employer's position. A failed strike vote removes the union's ability to negotiate from a position of strength.

A strike vote does not automatically mean everyone goes out on strike. Often, job actions are targeted to specific sectors and rotate. Also, many public services are deemed essential services, so only a portion of the workforce at any workplace will be affected.

If we are not prepared to take job action to support our demands at the bargaining table, we may just as well roll over and blindly accept whatever the employer wants. That's not the kind of workplace I want to work in.

Not wanting to strike

I don't think you've been on strike before. I have. I was on strike several times in the 1980s including 1983 when we were out for two weeks. I received one strike pay cheque in the amount of $75.00 in the second week. When we settled, the amount of the pay increase was 0.5%. It really didn't make a better future for anyone. You never get back what you lose on strike.

Some people really can't afford to strike

That's nice and all that some people can afford to go on strike, but some other people (myself included) really can't. For some of us, missing a day's work is the difference between paying the rent or not. For some of us, missing three day's work is the difference between whether we get to eat for a few days. Some people don't have the comforts of overdraft or savings. For some of us, that one day COULD very well put us on the street. We're not all so fortunate to be able to go into debt or overdraft. Just some food for thought.

Quite Frankly, No I Can't Afford to Strike

A three day strike would have serious implications for me, especially because I don't believe that under this administration and in this economic climate that it will make a tiny bit of difference.

We would be better off getting the BCGEU negotiators to look at other options rather than a raise in pay for us. If I could get an additional three days of vacation a year, I would take that over a 2% raise.

As for what is rightfully mine from an employment position that is what I negotiated when I took my job in government and with each competition I've completed for advancement. If I want more, I find ways to improve my skills and then I start to work hard at finding a new job (either in or out of government). That is my responsibility and my doing what is needed to HAVE what is rightfully mine.

Strike

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.

It's really sad to see

It's really sad to see Municipal Government Employees make more money then the Provincial Government - For example a secretary similar to legal secretary start at $28.35. Is it true that workers in mgmt positions get bonuses, wow that special if that is true.

March 5th picket lines at government office locations

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???

Screamed at too

I was screamed at by the picketers as I entered my office building. The union hadn't sent out any sort of notification in advance and so I didn't know what I was supposed to do about the picket line. I figured that since they weren't in our union I should just go to work.

general strike

general strike

Why strike, not going to get us anywhere

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.

A strike vote does not automatically equal a strike

There is a difference between a strike vote and a strike. A strike vote is taken to support the negotiators' position at the bargaining table. If the employer sees that the union doesn't have a mandate from its members to take job action if necessary to back up its demands, there is no incentive for them to negotiate in good faith.

incorrectly classified jobs

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

Strike mandate

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 the union members

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.

Another way to increase our wages

If the union has enough money in its coffers to pay strike pay in support of other unions, then maybe they have enough to put more money in our pocket by reducing our dues. For me a 50% reduction in my dues would mean that I have more money to pay my winter utilities off, rather than paying as much as I can afford each month, and then paying it off when my usage drops, with the associated penalties.

Dues already reduced

FYI - In 2008, the BCGEU convention delegates voted to decrease union dues from 2% to 1.8% of gross income. Also, most of the money members pay in union dues is tax deductible, so you get it back on your tax return.
One more thing - Your dues go in part to build a defense fund, to pay members strike pay should the union need to take job action to back up their bargaining demands. If no defense fund, no potential for a strike vote, and therefore limited if any gains at the bargaining table. You have to spend a buck to make a buck, my friend.

FYI - You don't get your

FYI - You don't get your union dues back on your tax return, you get a small portion of it. That's not how tax deductions work.

I agree, we should not strike....

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)

Some Good Points...

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.

So what if the employer

So what if the employer stalls on the negotiations. No one is holding a gun at our head to continue working for them. If we don't like the terms of our employment then we have the right and ability to find a new employer and to go and work for them. A job isn't a right, it is something you earn. I spend time regularly making sure that I am doing the right thing professionally to provide for my family in the long and short term. As soon as a job does not meet these criteria it is up to me to do what is necessary to find one that does.

Agree

I was proactive, then my wage no longer supported my family, I applied for higher classification jobs in government. That is one of the best perks working for the bc government, if you apply yourself and continue to grow with your education and skills you will never have to rely on BCGEU to negotiate higher wages for us.

We work for the public sector but we are still in control of our own futures and careers.. Stop relying on our union to give you a better life.. Rely on yourself :)

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