BUSINESS

Putting a lid on the salary pot

MALCOLM GRAY March 1 1982
BUSINESS

Putting a lid on the salary pot

MALCOLM GRAY March 1 1982

Putting a lid on the salary pot

After three videotaped rehearsals to perfect his timing, Premier Bill Bennett went on live television last Thursday and tightened the belts of British Columbia’s 250,000 public servants. But there was immediate outrage over Bennett’s plan to limit civil servants’ wage increases to around 10 per cent, with an absolute limit of 14 per cent. “To hell with him,” snapped Jim Kinnaird, president of the B.C. Federation of Labor. “I’d go after his guts for doing this sort of thing.”

With a contract between the government and 40,000 public employees— ranging from social workers to highway workers—due to expire July 31, the employees are in no mood to accept new restraints. They have been locked into annual eight-per-cent increases for three years, when the cost of living has been far higher—currently 13.4 per cent in Vancouver.

The other thrust to Bennett’s restraint program—limiting increases in government spending to 12 per cent— will hit the already squeezed municipalities, hospitals and school boards.

To many, the only good news in the address was an immediate salary freeze for high civil servants and wage guidelines for members of the legislature. The premier himself has been under attack lately for preaching austerity while hiring more advisers and buying new office furniture. In an apparent gesture of restraint, Patrick Kinsella, Bennett’s deputy minister, trimmed part of his $15,000 order of furniture for his own office.

MALCOLM GRAY