As of April 1, the wages of Saskatchewan MLAs will rise to $84,409. The 2.8% increase is equal to the raise in the provincial Consumer Price Index in 2007. All bonus renumerations will rise by the same amount, meaning all cabinet ministers will get an extra $42,974, for a total of $127,383. Premier Wall will make 145,799
and NDP Leader Lorne Calvert, 127,383. Yet, in 2006, the average person in Saskatchewan made just under $30,000.
Already, public sector unions publicly wonder if MLAs are deserving of the increase and claim that gains for lower-income workers should be greater than whatever the MLAs make.
Some major contracts with unions representing health care workers -- the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses, Service Employees International Union, Saskatchewan Government and General Employees Union and the Canadian Union of Public Employees -- expire at the end of this month
Barb Cape, president of SEIU local 299, joked that union members could evidently expect a 10-per-cent raise at the expiration of their contract based on the MLA model.
Cape agreed with Gantefoer that the public-sector unions will look primarily to precedents set in other contracts as opposed to the inflation rate.
Recent public-sector contract settlements in Saskatchewan have seen average annual wage increases of roughly four per cent.
But Cape said union members -- and people across Saskatchewan -- will take note of MLA pay.
"2.8 per cent on $80,000 is a hell of a lot more than 2.8 per cent on 10 bucks an hour," she said.
"I think our elected members really need to look at what the lowest end of our economic sector are making. They really need to look at their own wage increases and say, 'have I done enough to deserve this wage increase' because there are people working 12-hour shifts every single day and taking care of the poor and sick and most vulnerable in our society. They need that recognition too."
Saskatchewan CUPE president Tom Graham said he hopes government MLAs will consider their recent windfall as negotiations commence.
"They're giving themselves money. They better be prepared to give other people money too," he said in an interview.
The great omission in this line of reasoning is that taxpaying, lower-income workers will pay for whatever gains that elected representatives AND unionized public workers get. The real equalizer would be to keep all public wages down!
Finance Minister Rod Gantefoer also reportedly said he has never heard the public complain that MLA wages were too high. If you would like to be "the first," do let him know:
Rod Gantefoer, MLA Melfort
Address: Minister of Finance
Government House Leader
P.O. Box 2800,
Melfort, SK S0E 1A0
800.242.6796 (Toll Free)
www.melfortconstituency.ca (MLA Website)