Contrary to the much publicized Fraser Institute press releases accusing the public sector of abusing sick leave allowances, earlier today Statistics Canada issued a report suggesting there is in fact very little real difference in absenteeism rates between the public and private sectors.
Statistics Canada says that when you factor in age and gender differences as well as the higher rate of unionization in the public sector, the actual adjusted rate of difference amounts to less than a day – in fact 0.8 of a day.
“The difference can be attributed to several factors, as the public sector workforce tends to be older, more female and more unionized,” StatsCan states in today’s The Daily.
The rate of unionization is obviously important given non-union workplaces can make it much more difficult for a worker to take legitimate leave for illness or family care. Some have no provision for illness. If you are sick, you don’t get paid. That also increases the opportunity for illness to be spread about a workplace.
Unionized workers feel more secure taking sick and family days, missing an average of 12.9 days compared to 7.5 days for their non-union counterparts.
Statistics Canada says data from their Labour Force study counts work absences as the “estimated number of days taken by full-time employees holding only one job (excluding the military) for illness or disability, or personal or family responsibilities.”
Age is a major factor in the number of sick days taken. Full-time employees aged 55-64 (both private and public) missed 12.4 days on average, compared with 6.1 days for those aged 20 to 24. Women miss 11.4 days compared with 7.6 days for men.
With an older and predominantly female workplace, it is not hard to see why the overall averages in the public sector appear to be much higher.
However, these are not the kind of factors that the “researchers” at the Fraser Institute are inclined to take into account.
Former Globe and Mail journalist David Climenhaga says the Fraser Institute regularly uses “apples to oranges comparisons, deceptive omissions and intentional ignorance designed to achieve the propaganda goals of its corporate paymasters.”
Climenhaga notes a previous Fraser Institute claim that Alberta public employees earned 10 per cent more than their private sector counterparts. It turned out to be completely untrue when data from the now cancelled long form census was examined. The census data demonstrated comparable public sector compensation in that province was 2 per cent LESS than the private sector.
While “researchers” at the Fraser Institute are quick to slam rises in the minimum wage and are critical of earnings made by public sector workers, the Canadian Labour Congress notes the Institute’s 51 full-time employees averaged individual earnings of $107,000 in 2011 – double the average salary of a government employee. Executive salaries at the Institute ranged from $158,000 to $407,000. While the Harper government has been quick to go after the charitable status of organizations like the David Suzuki Foundation, tax payers continue to subsidize the Fraser Institute even though their work is clearly political in nature.
We don’t know what the absenteeism rate is for the fat cats at the Fraser.