Fraser got it wrong — StatsCan says little real difference in public-private absenteeism rates

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.

5 responses to “Fraser got it wrong — StatsCan says little real difference in public-private absenteeism rates

  1. Maybe women also miss more days because they have to stay home with a sick child and have no vacation days left.

  2. It’s surprising the absenteeism rate is actually so low given the impact of austerity on the workforce — including job cuts, workload challenges and the continual attack by corporations and press release mills like the Fraser Institute. This is hardly a recipe for a healthy work environment.

  3. From my own experience in the workplace, whenever I took any sick time off for an illness I was looked down upon. God forbid I should take care of myself and not spread the illnesses in the office.

    I have come to realize it is much better to go to work sick and share the cold/flu with everyone in the workplace.

    So far over a period of four years I have come to work 180 days sick to achieve perfect attendance.  Out of the four years I achieved one year of perfect attendance.   The manager really appreciated my efforts, without him knowing he approves of me coming to work sick.

    I also realize it is not acceptable to be sick on a Friday, on a Monday, day before a long weekend, day after a long weekend, day before a vacation, day after a vacation, day before a payday, day after payday, it seem it is not acceptable to sick
    at home during work hours.

    So you can be sick before you start work and sick after work.

    Like we have control of when we get sick.

  4. These stats put out by the Fraser Institute are so out of wack they don’t have a clue how the real world works. Its just a ploy to pit non-unionized works against unionized workers. Prolbem is some people believe what they read about government workers.

  5. Obligation is what I was told by management.

    Two years of 100% perfect attendance. Come to work sick. It is what they want, it I’d what they get. They don’t care about your health. They only care about the number of days you come to work.
    Out with the OLD, in with the NEW, get sick and die they replace you too!!

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