Right now, federal public service workers across Canada are on strike. With 155,000 workers out across the entire country, this is one of the largest strike in Canadian history.
This means, inevitably, that there is a backlash of propaganda in the mainstream and social media portraying the workers as greedy, entitled, selfish -- and useless.
The truth is exactly the opposite.
What are they asking for, and why?
According to a recent report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, public sector workers' wages, adjusted for inflation, are at rates comparable to 2007. That's the equivalent of not getting a decent raise for sixteen years!
That means that every year, these workers are falling further behind.
Through their union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), the workers are asking for 4.5% wage increase, each year for three years.
At a time when most employers in Canada are raising wages by anywhere from 4% to 5.4%, that's a reasonable ask. A major survey of 2023 employment shows salaries in different sectors going up from anywhere from 3.1% to 5.8%.
And as we all know, the Consumer Price Index, usually used as a measure of the cost of living, is the highest it has been in 40 years in Canada: 7.6%.
The constant interest rate hikes, which serve to fatten the already obese banking industry while squeezing the rest of us, means that Canadians are spending ever-increasing percentages of their earnings on shelter.
The constantly rising cost of food is the subject of countless stories and discussions, as owners and shareholders of Loblaw, Metro, Empire (which owns Sobey's), and others raking in record profits.
Our two most basic costs -- food and shelter -- are ballooning. Those of us with decent salaries feel the pinch, when after mortgage is paid and the grocery shopping is done, there is little left for leisure -- which in turn has a devastating domino effect on the local economy.
Those of us without decent salaries are suffering. Surveys show that parents are skipping meals so their children can eat. Spending 75% of their incomes on housing. Taking out second mortgages.
No one should have to face this, but certainly no one with a job should!
Workers who haven't seen a material gain (adjusted for inflation) in 16 years have a legitimate grievance. A 4.5% increase every year for three years is quite reasonable.
Who are the striking workers? What do they do?
These facts are gleaned mostly from Press Progress, who based the research on the workers' expired collective agreements (which are all publicly available online), and on interviews.
- The largest group of striking PSAC workers are from the Programs and Administrative Services group. Of this group of about 90,000 members, 72% are women, and 61% earn less than $70,000.
- These workers are data processors, bookkeepers, office equipment operators, secretaries, and court reporters. Several of these positions pay below $40,000, with some as low as $28,000! The classifications are highly outdated, and have not kept up with the private sector.
- Among the strikers are Department of Defense firefighters. They earn 20% less than municipal firefighters.
- Other positions include boiler plant operators, lighthouse keepers, power station operators, and aeronautics inspectors. There are specialists in drafting, engineering support, photography, and technical inspections.
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