Magazine article Canadian Dimension

Watch the Jories for Public Sector Wage Controls

Magazine article Canadian Dimension

Watch the Jories for Public Sector Wage Controls

Article excerpt

On March 10, 2007, CAW members working at Chrysler in Brampton, Ontario, overturned a previous decision and voted to accept salary reductions and contracting out of some jobs in order to convince the company to invest in future production at the Brampton facility. This is not the first time that autoworkers have had to make concessions to attract or maintain investment. However, the magnitude of the cuts, combined with the sorry prospects of the unionized American car manufacturers, should be of major concern to all of organized labour.

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During the last two decades, organized labour has relied on manufacturing workers--especially the CAW--to set the pattern concerning wage settlements. During the period from 1987 to 2006, the wages of unionized manufacturing workers rose by eighty per cent, while the average increase for all unionized workers was 65 per cent. During the same period, public-sector workers saw increases of 61 per cent.

Currently the situation is very unusual. In 2006, manufacturing wage increases lagged behind the national average, while public-sector increases considerably exceeded both manufacturing and the national average. In early 2007, the trend has continued, with public-sector wage increases also exceeding the rate of inflation. While this "catch-up" in wages for public-sector workers is most welcome and long overdue, it will definitely not go unnoticed by the Conservative politicians and the top bureaucrats of Treasury Board. History tells us to get ready for government intervention whenever this trend emerges. Trudeau used public-sector wage increases to justify the federal wage-control programs of 1975 and 1982. Under the Mulroney Conservatives and the Chretien Liberals, various federal-sector wage-restraint programs were introduced to ensure that public-sector wages would never set the pace for the private sector. …

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