Tens of thousands of public sector employees throughout the province, including teachers and civic workers here in Delta, are now without a contract and in search of a new one. With governments at all levels preaching restraint in the face of economic uncertainty, something tells me these deals aren't going to get done without a great deal of hand wringing and name calling.
Hypocrite might just be one of those names thrown around.
Take, for instance, the teachers, who have initiated limited job action this school year in response to the turtlelike pace of negotiations. They recently revised their demands and are now calling on Victoria to provide a 15 per cent wage increase over three years. Who do teachers think they are? B.C. MLAs?
While most would view a five per cent annual hike an excessive amount in these economic times, it might be tough for the governing Liberals to stick to the netzero stance they've adopted given what's taken place since the last time these two sides struck a deal.
The last contract for B.C. teachers, which was signed in June of 2006, was a five-year agreement that provided a reasonable enough 16 per cent bump to salaries. Since that time, however, MLAs have seen their compensation skyrocket, including a whopping 29 per cent raise in 2007 alone. More recent hikes have been tied to the consumer price index.
So which is it? Is there plenty of money to go around or is the cupboard bare?
On the home front, Delta's civic employees were scheduled to begin bargaining with municipal officials this week where a similar situation could well play out. Although it's unclear at this stage where each side stands, it's pretty safe to assume municipal hall will say it can't afford CUPE's demands, at least its initial ones.
At which time I suspect union leaders will openly wonder why Delta council members have seen their salaries increase by more than 30 per cent in just over four years if there isn't enough money to pay the municipality's rank and file.
It will put council members, who admittedly don't make a ton of money for the job they're tasked to do, in a tough spot as they try to hold the line on salary, and conversely property tax, increases.
Labour negotiations are not easy at the best of times, but these, and others throughout the province during what is shaping up to be year of the union contract, are made that much more problematic by the events that have preceded them.