Our big, fat public sector

Study shows Manitoba’s public sector bigger than most, but still overworked and understaffed

A recent study from the Frontier Centre for Public Policy shows that Manitoba’s public sector is larger than other provinces and that we’re paying more for it than other provinces.

“There are substantial differences from province to province in terms of level of employments and in terms of how much public employees are paid,” said Ben Eisen, policy analyst with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Manitoba’s public service is very large at the per-capita level compared to other provinces, according to Eisen.

“[Manitoba] has the largest pay premium of any other province. The pay premium is the difference between what public servants are paid and the average wage across the province,” Eisen said.

The pay premium for Manitoba public administration employees is 50 per cent, a high percentage compared to provinces such as New Brunswick at 30 per cent and Alberta at 24 per cent.

“Just by trimming the costs to match Saskatchewan, which is a very comparable province … you save about 80 million bucks a year,” said Eisen.

But are cutting costs to the province’s economy the best way to keep a lean provincial budget?

“Wage freezes or cuts, layoffs, the involuntary extension of collective agreements, back to work legislation and other restrictions of union rights have all become routine in the public sector,” said David Camfield, professor of labour studies at the University of Manitoba. “As a result, the quality of work life has deteriorated. Cuts to staffing levels and work reorganization have made jobs harder.”

Staffing shortages and overworked staff have been recent complaints from public worker unions. Despite the high-rolling status of Manitoba’s public sector, it’s unclear how the provincial government could justify any job or pay cuts.

Published in Volume 64, Number 6 of The Uniter (October 8, 2009)

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