If public sector workers have it so good, how come private sector firms dominate best employer lists?

The Canadian political elite really needs to be much more consistent in their propaganda. They like to whip up antipathy towards public sector workers suggesting they are overpaid and pampered, but they may have overlooked that strategy recently in the rush to give themselves a pat on the back.

Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak uses such sentiment to advocate for public sector wage freezes and more recently has set his sights on attacking modest public sector pension plans.

Hudak is banking on a policy of reducing the modest pension incomes of seniors as a vote getter. Good luck with that, Tim.

But if things were indeed so cushy for public sector employees, you’d think public sector employers would absolutely dominate year-end best employer lists, especially given these lists are made up by the same media conglomerates that peddle this anti-public sector message.

On Monday the Globe and Mail published its top 20 list of Canada’s top family friendly firms for 2013.

On the list are nine private corporations and two publicly owned corporations – Toronto Hydro and Saskatchewan Government Insurance. There are three universities on the list – Dalhousie, Simon Fraser and the University of Toronto. There is one non-governmental charitable organization – World Vision Canada. One national regulator made the list – the National Energy Board of Canada for their maternity leave top ups. Among provincial employees, only the BC Public Service makes the list, largely on the ability of workers to extend parental leave into an unpaid leave of absence. Similarly, only one municipality made the list – the City of Ottawa for on-site daycare for employees. Only one hospital made the list – Sunnybrook Health Sciences in Toronto.

If you look at the much larger 2013 “100 Best Employer” list also published by the Globe and Mail, private corporations, not public ones, overwhelmingly dominate. About two-thirds of the list is made up of private sector corporations. Financial services companies, automobile manufacturers, and energy companies make up much of that list. Only two provincial or territorial governments made the list – BC and the Northwest Territories. If health care is supposed to be rich, it is hardly reflected by the list, which does include Sunnybrook as well as Sick Kids, Hamilton St. Joseph’s, the Vancouver Island Health Authority and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. Only two municipalities make the list – Ottawa and Vancouver.

In 2010 Toronto East General Hospital CEO Rob Devitt told a Longwood’s forum that staff satisfaction in his sector is bad. Having won a Great Places To Work Award for his own hospital, Devitt told the audience that when he looked at other winners from the private sector he was shocked at how poorly his hospital stacked up.

Just looking at wages, Ontario workers both public and private are hardly reaping huge rewards. As of September, average annual increases are running at about 1.4 per cent, barely above the consumer price index of 1.2 per cent. Ontario is expected to have a real growth rate (nominal growth minus inflation) of 1.9 per cent this year, which means 1.7 per cent of that growth will not be going to increased workers’ wages.

At the beginning of the year the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives looked at the other end of the spectrum. Among Canada’s Top 100 executives, the average increase in compensation for 2010 was 27 per cent compared to the average of 2 per cent for everybody else.

The fact that the focus of popular resentment has shifted back to the public sector speaks volumes about who controls the dialogue.

But in the rush to give themselves a pat on the back through the best employer lists, for just a moment this country’s corporate elite may have accidentally forgotten the new narrative they have worked so hard to perpetuate.

One response to “If public sector workers have it so good, how come private sector firms dominate best employer lists?

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