Sunday, February 9, 2014

Skinning the union fat-cats

There's a title bound to catch the eye of the right-to-work-for-less crowd. Those folks love to hate unions, and especially union bosses.

Virtually all of those folks would be far better off it they had a union, but that is a matter for another day. For now we'll content ourselves with looking in on Tony Clement's war on Canadian public servants.

Anti-union propaganda, dreamt up in corporate boardrooms and right-wing think tanks and then promulgated uncritically and with great vigour by our mainstream media, usually begins with vast over-estimates of the actual wages of those union members in question. For example, all those mollycoddled UAW /CAW members who almost destroyed the North American auto industry were making $60 or $70 or $120 per hour, depending on where you read about them.  Floating these bogus numbers into the public realm has a purpose; to arouse the hostility of those who make less.

The reality is of course much different; even before the post-collapse shakedown of autoworkers across North America, hourly wages for line workers were barely $30. Now they're in the teens. But, thanks to ubiquitous anti-union propaganda, most people you ask still think autoworkers are highly paid.

And that floating of bogus numbers is the strategy that Clement uses at every opportunity in his war on Canada's public service. Oh lookee, the average public employee makes $114,000 per year!  Nothing like that headline to raise the rancour of the vast majority of private sector employees who make less.

Then, not quite as splashy as that first headline, another one comes out that purports to set the record straight; it's not $114,000 after all, it's barely $70,000.

A little more time passes and some fringe website that nobody reads will report that the actual median annual income of unionized public workers is less that $50k, but by then the damage is done. Everybody knows that public sector workers are greedy, lazy, incompetent, and overpaid.

Recently Mr. Clement, boss of the Treasury Board and therefore responsible for government spending, has thrust public workers sick-days into the spotlight. Those overpaid lazy public servants are not just greedy and incompetent, they are also scamming their sick benefits AT THE EXPENSE OF HARDWORKING CANADIAN TAXPAYERS!!!

Last year Tony made lots of headlines with his claim that public sector workers take at least five more sick days a year than private sector workers. That of course was only made possible by their union bosses who protected these shirkers from the realities of the real world. Tony had those union bosses and their multitudes of muzzled minions squarely in his sites. He was gonna cut those union bigwigs down to size, and bring those public sector sick benefits into line with the non-existant ones in the private sector.

Turns out there was a fly in Tony's ointment; empirical evidence that reveals Tony's numbers were bullshit from the beginning. Seems that public servant sick days are comparable to private sector sick days. So much for divide and conquer...

Tony was quick to re-spin his war on lazy union workers and their corrupt union bosses. A couple of days ago he was cutting them down to size. Listen to what he is quoted as saying in today's Sunday Star (P A2); "We  have employees who run out of their sick days and then go on employment insurance to pay their bills. I don't think that's a good system for them. In fact, I think it's an immoral system."

That's Tony Clement, champion of the Canadian public servant!

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