Recently the Trail Times ran a column by Tom Fletcher suggesting that the Canadian Union of Public Employees was running city halls in British Columbia (“Is CUPE running your city hall?” Trail Times Sept. 30).
Mr. Fletcher’s column was based on a shoddy report done by the provincial government about pay for municipal employees. Despite the fact the report focussed on local governments, neither Mr. Fletcher, nor the authors of the report bothered to talk to local government representatives.
And this isn’t surprising, because Mr. Fletcher and others are promoting a ham-fisted solution (imposing a provincial-government controlled bargaining model on locally-elected city councils) in search of a non-existent problem.
Had Mr. Fletcher spoken to Rona Martin, president of the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), or even read the UBCM statement, he would have found that the provincial report frequently acknowledges serious limitations on municipal pay data. This includes lumping in compensation for police, fire fighters, BC Ferries and TransLink, even though local governments don’t control compensation for these groups.
It is true that the cost of local government has gone up. As local government representatives will tell you, much of this comes from provincial and federal government regulations, rules and required services to be paid by local governments. A recent report from the B.C.-based Columbia Institute, finds that between 2001 and 2010 local spending on sewer services went up by 173 per cent, on policing by 134 per cent, and on water services by 130 per cent – driven by either by provincial or federal requirements.
On Mr. Fletcher’s key target – CUPE’s wage settlements – the fact is that over the last decade CUPE’s municipal wage settlements have largely mirrored private sector settlements. And both CUPE and private sector agreements have been lower than the growth in the province’s wealth (provincial Gross Domestic Product) and the increase in average weekly wages across B.C.
The authors of the provincial government report should clearly have talked to local governments and examined these issues. As a journalist, it would have been responsible for Mr. Fletcher to do the same.
Mark HancockCUPE BC presidentBurnaby