Orwell’s Clowns: Co-opting Pay Equity

I think most Canadians have heard of pay equity – although it’s not just equal pay for equal work.

Equivalent responsibilities + equivalent qualifications = equal compensation.

The market, you see, can be subject to the same negative social bias – gender, racial, sexuality – as anything else. It hasn’t corrected the effects of financial discrimination in the workplace without prodding. Hence pay equity initiatives.

In the most Orwellian attempt to co-opt a term I’ve heard in a long time, the Canadian Taxpayers Institute has come up with their own pay equity.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) released an Angus ReidPublic Opinion poll today showing an overwhelming number of British Columbians believe government workers are being paid more than taxpayers can afford and should be brought in line with the private sector.

Four in five British Columbians said compensation for government employees should be the same as what private sector employees earned. Almost three-quarters (73 per cent) said they would support provincial legislation—a Compensation Equity Act—to ensure governments can’t blow the budget on bureaucrat wages.

How nice. Basically they want public sector wages tied to the private sector. There’s quite a few problems here, including the poll itself. Here’s a sample:

In fact, government employees are paid, on average, 10% more than private sector employees doing the same work, and receive a total compensation that is 30% higher. Thinking about this, do you think this situation is fair or unfair?

Followed by…

[DO YOU THINK] compensation for the government employees should be in line with what private sector employees earn in the same jobs.

What’s the question not asked? Well, this:

[DO YOU THINK] compensation for private sector employees should be in line with what government employees earn in the same jobs.

The CTF claims government employees are paid, on average, 10% more than private sector employees doing the same work, and receive a total compensation that is 30%
higher. And what’s that claim based on? Well…

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation cites as the source for its wage gap estimate studies by right-wing think-tank the Fraser Institute, as well as the Frontier Centre for Public Policy and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

Say, now that sound familiar! I’ve written about them before, particularly the Frontier study here and here, and see this from Policy Note. Despite the claim, these studies are not apples to apples comparisons. They’re apples to oranges, or cherry-picked professions that support their argument, ignoring the professions that don’t. That said, the Brits have found...[w]ork in the public sector and you will be paid more, get shorter hours and probably be more qualified. But it’s not as simple as that…

No, it’s not. I would read the whole thing here. Read that, then let’s return to my old friend Jordan Bateman:

Bateman pointed to the controversy over TransLink executive bonuses as the most recent example of the public saying enough to ever-increasing pay and perks for government employees

Note he doesn’t choose median wage earners for his example. He chooses upper management. Which is funny, because upper management is better compensated in the private sector. Presumably under the CTF’s Compensation Equity Act our Translink executives would see a pay equity boost to their compensation.

And at lower income levels….well, yes, the statistics do suggest the public sector is better treated. For example, women don’t see as much wage discrimination. Or immigrants.. You know, because of things like pay equity.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation isn’t about lifting ordinary people up. It’s about cutting ordinary people down…all for the benefit of the most privileged in our society.

And they know it, so they are trying to muscle in on and co-opt the message of #Occupy.