The Higgs Government’s wage suppression will negatively affect more than just public sector workers. Some unintended consequences of freezing public sector wages include:
• Workers incurring more debt as their salaries are not keeping pace with inflation.
• Impacting the private sector, as public sector employees have less disposable income.
• Stifling the economy – Covid-19 has shown us that businesses are ill equipped to deal with economic shocks and must turn towards government for assistance.
“The Higgs Government will get more than it bargained for if it proceeds with freezing public sector wages,” says Daniel Legere, President of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour. “Some of the lowest paid public sector workers are essential workers during this pandemic. If their salaries do not keep up with the cost of living, it could have dire consequences as the province already has high poverty rates.”
The Saint John Human Development Council recently released its 2020 Child Poverty Report Card. It finds that 1 in 5 children (1 in 4 for children under the age of 6) live in poverty. In some New Brunswick communities, it is almost 3 out 4 children who live in poverty.
The Higgs government’s approach goes against the recommendations made by the New Brunswick Federation of Labour to the All-Party Cabinet Committee on Novel Coronavirus in June 2020. New Brunswick’s central voice for organized labour recommended that the public sector lead the economic recovery by investing more, not less, in public services. This approach would stimulate the economy while addressing long-standing inequalities that have been exposed by the pandemic.
Last week the Higgs government announced that non-unionized public servants would not receive any retroactive wage increases, as usually scheduled for April and October 2020. It plans to follow suit when negotiating collective agreements with unionized workers. This flies in the face of this government’s priority of wanting to make decisions based on factual data and return on its investment. Research clearly shows that governments receive their best return on investment by investing directly (and not cutting) public services.
“Government should not be run like a business as its focus is on the public good and not on its bottom line,” concludes Daniel Legere. “Not everything that is profitable is of social value and not everything of social value is profitable.”
The New Brunswick Federation of Labour is the central voice of organized labour in the province. It represents over 38,000 members.
For information, please contact:
President, New Brunswick Federation of Labour
(506) 857-2125 / (506) 381-8969