Public sector has become an unsustainable monster

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When are our federal, provincial and municipal politicians going to acknowledge they’ve created a public-sector monster the private sector can’t afford?

A new study by the Fraser Institute reveals what a monster it’s become.

It says that in 2015, the last year for which statistics are available, the public sector workforce in Ontario, at 1.3 million employees, accounted for almost one in five workers (18.7%).

Further, these public sector employees are the “haves”, compared to the 65.6% of private-sector workers, and 15.7% who are self-employed, who are the “have nots.”

Based on comparable jobs, this latest study finds, as have so many others, that public-sector employees enjoy substantially better pay, benefits and pensions.

In other words, almost 80% of the workforce in the private sector is supporting almost 20% in the public sector to a standard of living the majority of Ontario workers simply can’t afford, especially as their governments go ever deeper into debt and raise their taxes, fees and levies.

Yes, public-sector workers pay taxes.

But the bulk of the money that props up their superior pay, benefits and pensions comes from private-sector employees, who earn substantially less in comparable jobs and who work harder for the money they make.

The Fraser study found public-sector workers earn 13.4% more on average in comparable jobs to the private sector, 10.3% more when union membership is factored in.

Public-sector workers are far more likely to have a pension plan (82.1% compared to 25.2% in the private sector) and are more than twice as likely to have the best type of plan known as a defined benefit pension (97% for government workers, 45.1% in the private sector).

Public-sector workers retire earlier than their private-sector counterparts (1.4 years on average), take more personal time off work annually (10.9 days compared to 6.8 days), and are far less likely to lose their jobs (3.2% in the private sector, compared to 0.5% in the public sector.)

While this financial insanity clearly isn’t sustainable, no level of government shows any serious willingness to close the gap by controlling costs in the public sector.

This week, Toronto council put off to the never-never land of further study, a decision on contracting out garbage collection in Scarborough, a proven money saver where it’s been done elsewhere in the city.

In Ottawa, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s election promise of modest deficits leading to a balanced budget in 2019 has gone the way of unicorns and fairy dust, the Liberals are a lost cause.

At Queen’s Park, Ontario’s 24 community colleges recently proposed salary increases of up to 50% for their presidents after a five-year wage freeze, which would increase their top salaries to almost $500,000 annually, with a minimum of $325,000, for schools with as little as 2,000 students.

Even Premier Kathleen’s Wynne spendthrift Liberal government, the world’s most indebted sub-sovereign borrower, couldn’t stomach that and sent the colleges back to the drawing board.

But such grasping greed perfectly illustrates the indifference and lack of concern by the public sector towards the private one.

And no, the solution is not, as the left often argues, to get more people into public-sector jobs.

Clearly, we can’t afford the ones we already have.

Toronto Sun by Lorrie Goldstein

Feb 2nd 2017

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