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May 18, 2010

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Worker-bashing screed misses the point

Sent to The Province May 7th - unpublished.

Thank you, Jon Ferry, for so clearly laying out the tycoon’s solution to economic problems: make working people pay for them (“Blame unions for funding shortfalls, tax hikes,” The Province, May 7).

Ferry rages that municipal and school board workers got pay increases last year that were higher than the cost of living. Over the last 12 months, the cost of living increase was close to zero in B.C.

Ferry neglects to mention a couple of things. First, one of the main reasons for the small increase in the cost of living was a collapse in energy prices. For most of us, that wasn’t such a bad deal.

Second, even though we were in an economic recession, for the main part wages continued to increase. The BC Statistics Bulletin, Infoline, reports that from March 2009 to March 2010 the average weekly wage rate in B.C. went up by 3.9 per cent - a bigger increase than any public employees got.

Sometimes public sector wages go up faster than private sector wages. Sometimes it is the other way around. Where was Jon Ferry when public sector workers were taking zeroes while inflation was increasing? Somehow, when this happens, Ferry’s sense of justice goes AWOL.

And where is Ferry on the many other costs that aren’t wage related? Where are his comments on costs imposed on school boards by the provincial government for things like MSP increases and carbon neutrality?

The world is having economic problems because corporations like banks were both stupid and greedy. Yet those same corporations have received massive tax cuts in recent years. How about a rollback there, Mr. Ferry?

Barry O’Neill is president of CUPE BC.