Wage gap to government workers growing

Government workers continue to earn more than those in the private sector — and the gap is growing.

“The solution is obvious — we all need to go work for the government,” said Canadian Taxpayers Federation executive director Gregory Thomas.

“But if everybody’s working for the government, then who is left to pay for it all?”

Citing new numbers from Statistics Canada, Thomas says salaries for government workers have increased 35.3% in the last 10 years, while non-government employees are making 29.9%. more.

In July 2011, the average public servant earned $1,023.20 weekly, versus $777.69 in the private sector.

In July 2001, those numbers were $756.01 and $598.81, respectively.

And roughly 81% of government workers have defined-benefit pension plans, which are guaranteed, indexed pensions for life — a key issue in the recent Canada Post and Air Canada labour disputes — compared to 14.2% of other workers.

“If you’re not working for the government, you’re almost a bit of a risk taker,” said Thomas.

The CTF is calling on the government to “phase out gold-plated, defined-benefit pension plans” for public servants and rein in their salaries.

But Larry Rousseau from the Public Service Alliance of Canada says attacking government workers isn’t the answer.

Many federal employees, he says, are calling it quits before reaching 35 years of service.

“Gold-plated pensions? I don’t think so,” said Rousseau, PSAC’s regional executive vice-president for the national capital region.

In the last five years, he said, more and more workers are reporting higher levels of stress and illness.

“People who have had 30 years are bailing out,” he said.

And that comes with a penalty.

For instance, a 52-year-old public servant who retires early would get 50% — instead of up to 70% — of their salary.

The average age of new hires in the federal public service is 26, Rousseau said.

“I’ll be lucky if I get 40 to 50% when I retire from the federal public service,” he said, adding he used to work in the private sector.

The Conservative government is pushing for Pooled Retirement Pension Plans, with voluntary contributions from private-sector employers.

PPRPs would be managed by banks and are similar to group Registered Retirement Savings Plans, which are taxable.

“We think it makes a lot of sense,” said Thomas.

Rousseau argues PRPPs don’t guarantee retirement security.

Expanding benefits under the Canada Pension Plan, he said, is in everyone’s best interest.

“The banks are in the business of making money. The Canada Pension Plan is in the business of paying pensions,” said Rousseau.



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