Marching on Queen’s Park in 2008. OPSEU remains proud to be one of the founding organizations behind the Ontario Health Coalition. This weekend we give thanks to our allies who have kept the public interest at the center of the health care reform debate.
Recently the UK Guardian reported on Sweden’s rejection of tax cuts and privatization by returning the Social Democrats to power. Eight years’ experience with privatization of public services didn’t leave Swedes feeling confident about the broadening control of public services by private interests.
“For years, people had been accusing schools run by private equity of pocketing the state’s money and putting it into their offshore bank accounts,” said one education stakeholder, “but now it looked like these companies weren’t even capable of running a business properly.”
Facing a similar choice in Ontario’s last general election, voters also rejected Tim Hudak’s promise of more tax cuts and more job cuts and privatization in the public sector.
There is no question that there is an ideological conflict going on over the future of health care delivery in Canada.
Public and private spending on health care across the country is about $200 billion. That’s a very attractive target for those who recognize that even shifting a small share of that pie from the public to private sphere can result in very handsome profits.
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.
It is interesting that the Ontario Tories quote the Pacific Research Institute in this week’s white paper on labour.
In the paper, the Tories say the average yearly economic growth in U.S. States with voluntary union rules is 4.4 per cent compared to 3.6 per cent in those which use a system similar to Ontario’s.
Oddly, the PRI says the “calculations” are based on data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Calculations? What kind of calculations? Wouldn’t the bureau have available economic growth numbers for the States? Why would they need to be “calculated” by PRI?
The PRI is an extreme right-wing organization whose vision, according to their website, is to promote “individual freedom and personal responsibility. The Institute believes these principles are best encouraged through policies that emphasize a free economy, private initiative, and limited government (emphasis added).”
The Fraser Institute and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business having been ratcheting up the war on public sector workers, portraying hospital workers, teachers and other public sector workers as fat cats who are overpaid compared to their private sector counterparts.
Of course, you won’t find anyone in the public sector who earns the kinds of salaries bank executives have been piling up, most major Canadian bank CEOs skyward of $10 million per year.
Free to be as political as they like (no attacks from the Harper government on the Fraser Institute’s charitable status), they use their media-supported bully pulpit to regularly demonize the public sector.
Now a new report from the Centre for Spatial Economics (C4SE) calls into question the assumptions in these attacks.
Where you buy your groceries, which newspaper you subscribe to, or where you do your banking may contribute to funding the attack on public health care in Canada.
The explosive growth of right-wing think tanks across Canada has been supported by some of our largest corporations to promote their own private interests. The question is, are these legitimate research institutes or business lobbyists?
While the media continually treats reports from these organizations as gospel, they seldom ask who provides the funding?
The irony is not lost on us, especially given the Montreal Economics Institute’s campaign to make unions open their books to the public while they themselves refuse to divulge who their funders are.