Salary increases for senior deputies show contorted logic at its best
The latest news out of Victoria shows a disturbing trend when it comes to pay scales for those in the senior ranks of the provincial government. Last week the government announced that, effective August 1, 2008, Deputy Ministers as well as Assistant Deputy Ministers would get salary increases ranging from 22% to as much as 43%.
The disturbing part is not that these people would get a salary increase; fair compensation, after all, is something that the labour movement has championed for a long time. No, the disturbing parts of this story are the sheer magnitude of the increases for people who are already making in excess of $250,000 per year and the justification used by the government to push through these increases.
Let's start with the increases themselves. A few points of reference are worth remembering. Inflation in BC is running at close to 2% annually. The average wage increase in BC is about 2.5-3.0%. The salary increases that are being given to these senior Deputies make those benchmarks look like statistical errors. Even the lowest percent increase (22%) is ten times the current rate of inflation.
A few more benchmarks worth considering: the median family income in BC is about $62,000. For single parent households, the median income is about $31,000. The salary increases announced on August 8th will mean absolute increases ranging from $35,000 to $105,000. The top paid folks in the Campbell government will get wage increases that, in most cases, are greater than what the average family in BC earns in a year.
Next to the sheer scale of these increases, it's disturbing to hear how the government has rationalized the pay hikes. During our last round of bargaining, we presented binders full of research showing how the salary scale of post-secondary educators in other provinces was outpacing those in BC. What was the government's response to our research? It doesn't matter what other provinces are paying. Fast forward to August 8th and uppermost in the government's rationale for the pay hikes was the need for salaries to "remain competitive with what other provinces are paying".
What the government is really saying is that they make up their own rules when it comes to pay increases. The Premier had no hesitation in giving himself a 54% wage hike. He was equally unfazed about giving his senior Deputies pay increases that ran at ten times the rate of inflation. But when it comes to acknowledging the need to keep post-secondary salaries in line with other provinces, suddenly those changes are "simply unaffordable".
One last footnote to this pay increase story: the press release announcing the changes was sent out on Friday August the 8th, a day the government was hoping the media would be distracted by the start of the Summer Olympics in Beijing. If hypocrisy was an Olympic sport, Premier Campbell's contorted logic for these salaries would certainly be gold medal performance.
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The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is the provincial voice for faculty and staff in BC teaching universities, colleges and institutes, and in private sector institutions. FPSE member locals, represented by Presidents' Council and the Executive, represent over 10,000 faculty and staff at 18 public and 12 private sector institutions.