BC budget: Finance minister digs in on bargaining framework
THE BC GOVERNMENT FOCUSED on children and skills training in its 2006 budget, while holding the line on its restrictive negotiating framework for public sector workers.
In a pre-budget statement in Victoria Tuesday, finance minister Carole Taylor held firm on “the billion-dollar dangle” – the money disappears at midnight on March 31.
The government has indicated that the $1 billion is strictly for one-time payouts such as signing bonuses and cannot be used to increase base wage rates. At the bargaining table Tuesday, the union proposed a $4,700 signing bonus for hospital and long-term care workers, based on the disproportionately deep wage cuts imposed by government two years ago. Health employers have offered $3,700. Victoria’s five-year, $6 billion framework includes the $1 billion early-settlement incentive, $4.7 billion for wage/benefit increases and another $300 million – conditional on government exceeding 2010 surplus forecasts – as a dividend for four-year contracts.
And while it sounds like a lot, it amounts to just 2.7 per cent annually across the public sector for both general wage increases and other measures. It’s unlikely to allow for workers’ wages to keep pace with inflation, much less recover lost ground. Meanwhile, Taylor has budgeted generous forecast “cushions” of $1.8 billion over three years on top of surpluses totaling $2.6 billion. Revenue projections are also conservative.
Also in the budget: