'Sunshining' a light on pay inequity - Denny Scott editorial
Every year around this time I’m handed the onerous task of combing through the province’s salary disclosure list, also known as the “Sunshine List” and shining a spotlight on the public employees in our community who make $100,000 or more.
It’s an unpleasant experience, though maybe not for the reason that people may assume. It’s not about the fact that people get a lot of money to do their jobs. I’d imagine most of them can prove they’re worth it. I’m also not angry that I’m not anywhere near making the list, nor am I angry that so many people are, what I’m angry about is the relationship between the private and public sectors.
There’s a lot to unpack here because the list is indicative of a lot of problems in our province, including the disparity between private sector employees and public sector wages, the issues with unions and just overall government spending.
I guess, to get it out of the way, I’ll start with unions. As I’ve said before, I think that some unions, specifically those representing public employees or crown employees, have gone well past their best-before date. Unions were important before there were laws protecting Canadian citizens and some unions do need to exist to continue that fight. However, for years, unions for public sector employees have become a bulwark against some people facing consequences for their actions.
That probably won’t be a popular statement among all our readers, but the simple fact is I’ve got my lifetime worth of proof to back it up. Feel free to ask me about it, but I’m not going to detail it here.
Next is the disparity between private sector employees and their public sector counterparts which, again, could be tied to the unions, but we’ll take it as an à la carte option this time.
As of 2019, based on 2018 numbers, the Fraser Institute says that, just factoring in wages, public-sector workers make 10 per cent more than their private sector counterparts. When you consider the fact that the latters’ taxes are what’s used to pay the formers’ wages, there should probably be some kind of parity there. The report also states that public sector employees are more than three times more likely to have a registered pension plan than private sector workers (82.7 per cent of public sector employees versus 24.6 per cent of private sector) and that private sector employees take just over half as many personal days as public sector workers (7.8 days versus 13.7).
No matter how you slice it, public sector employees usually out-earn their private sector counterparts and, typically, also enjoy more job security and benefits.
So now that I’ve spent most of my space here laying out my own personal belief system, I’ll explain why the “Sunshine List” really frustrates me: we forget where that money comes from.
When a private sector employee, who isn’t anywhere near $100,000 a year, loses a fifth or a quarter of their pay cheque to taxes, it goes to pay for these people who are making at least $1.10 to every dollar the private sector employee takes home. Again, I’m not saying any particular individual deserves less (save those hiding behind unions to keep jobs they don’t deserve), but as a province we need to see more parity between the private and public sectors.
Somewhere in this edition of The Citizen readers will find a correction relating to the story that appeared in last week’s issue regarding the “Sunshine List”. Due to a technological glitch, the number of people on the list was drastically misreported and the blame for that problem is squarely on my shoulders.
I could (and will) explain how the mistake happened, but the fact of the matter is it doesn’t really matter how it happened, the simple fact is it did and it was my actions that led to it.
The only reason I’ll detail the situation here is because it kind of adds to my gripes about the list: it’s too darned big.
The reason we had 8,225 entries on the list instead of the actual 205,607 entries is because my computer, which is just over five years old, didn’t have enough memory to load the entire list. It got to just past the four per cent mark and ran out of memory.
Now, that’s probably because I was editing photos and stories, but the fact is there are so many people on the list that a “not old” computer can have trouble opening the file.
Again, there’s no excuse here. I didn’t check my work the way I should have. However, the fact that the file only partially loaded does raise a question in my mind: how do so many people make so much while the national average salary is sitting around $51,000?