"Whether we are talking about 30
years from now, or two years from
now, the future we reap will be
determined by the seeds we sow
— the choices we make — right
here, right now"
THRONE SPEECH 2012
Public employees in this province have had a pretty good time of since the late 1990’s.
The era of prosperity has meant growth in public sector employment and programs. The provincial government has doubled expenditures since 2003. The non-sustainability of the growth of the public sector has finally been realized. What government gave, it must take away.
Oil revenues took a major hit this year with the the Sea Rose and the Terra Nova FPSO's having to disconnect for refits and maintenance. The Terra Nova is still not producing.
Dunderdale is acting like an evangelist, reborn in the spirit of fiscal conservatism that has not necessarily been a trade mark of the last two Progressive Conservative governments. She has laid out a couple of fiscal goals that are responsible, and perhaps overdue but hard to swallow in light of the partisan largesse.
With government departments looking to find 10% reductions in operating costs, public sector lay-offs are inevitable.
The dread of impending lay-offs and associated bumping is beginning to grip the public service. The program review exercise will result in a slimmer government, which is perhaps overdue. With as much as 30% of the public service eligible for retirement, it is an opportunity to redesign program delivery across the board.
Government is looking at employee benefits as well.
With nearly 40% of government expenditures going towards salaries and benefits, it makes sense that changes in the pension plans, eliminating severance benefits and axing some paid holidays are on the table. Of course the challenge with public sector pensions is that the province continues to neglect its responsibility and pay its share.
2013 will be a year of retrenchment for the Progressive Conservatives as they assault the civil service in a way that has not been seen in twenty years. With each rumored demand hits the negotiating table the potential for a public service strike grows. I think the government would welcome a strike and the savings that come with it.
Government largess, including a 60% hike in salaries for many staff in the Premier’s office, illustrates how rotten this administration has become. The slimmer cabinet has grown as well. The “Do as I say not as I do” approach reeks of the hypocrisy.
It is one thing to try and transform oneself from big spender to a new age Paul Bunyan riding a big blue ox cutting programs and staffing. It is another to speak from the gospel of Conservatism while doling out pork and salary increases to partisan chums.
Over the past few days two of my colleagues have been bumped out onto the streets. While we all say it is not personal, loosing ones job, and associated benefits, is personal. The timing, just before Christmas sucks. The bumping resulting from the elimination of temporary jobs is a harbinger of things to come in the Spring budget.
The public service is up for a rude awakening.