Cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war

From today’s TJ:

New Brunswick’s largest public sector union is warning the province’s labour peace could end abruptly if the Liberal government pushes forward with a controversial proposal on merging union contracts.

The Self-Sufficiency Task Force’s call for a single, five-year public sector labour agreement has the province’s public sector unions talking tough. Tom Mann, executive director of the New Brunswick Union, said if the proposal means lumping teachers, nurses and other public sector workers into the same union contract, the province risks turbulent union relations.

I can’t figure out the public sector.

I have the utmost respect for people who decide to go into public service and make a career out of trying to make their community, province or country a better place.

But the public sector in New Brunswick should the paramount voice in this province calling for radical change. They, in a way no person in the general public ever could, understand the scope and scale of the challenges – or at least they should.

Every day public sector workers in New Brunswick are confronted with the realities of a declining population, among the worst health outcomes in Canada, declining student enrollments, aging infrastructure, increasing dependence on equalization, losing economic development, etc. They should know because they are embedded in it.

And yet, instead of a thoughtful response to the self sufficiency commission and in fact putting forward their own ideas about how to get us out of the rut we are in, we get sabre rattling about the recommendation related to merging of union contracts.

I don’t know anything about merging of union contracts.

All I know is that this “Tom Mann” should be about proactivity and solutions. He should be talking about ways to invest public sector pensions in New Brunswick’s economic growth and not China’s or Toronto’s (99.7% of all public sector pension money from New Brunswick is invested outside the provinces in other markets deemed ‘worthy’ by the pension investors). He should be looking at marshalling the large public service behind self sufficiency and asking all members to think about it as they do their business day to day. The health department should be looking at ways to leverage its $2 billion budget for increased economic development. The supply and services department should be looking at ways to support economic development. If they let a large contract to a firm from Toronto, the next call should be from Business New Brunswick. NB Power should be about economic growth. The department of education should be about aligning post secondary training with targeted growth sectors put forward by BNB. The tourism department should be looking at sectors that generate higher wages and year round employment. The department of finance should be, well should be, about sustainable, economic growth generating more own-source revenue to reduce dependence on Ottawa and gird up our communities for the long term.

Make no mistake. The people Tom Mann represents are the front line in this battle. And if the only interest is in narrow-minded worries about potential wage impacts somewhere down the road, I have news for Mr. Mann.

In 10-2o years without major economic growth leading to a reversal in population decline, “they” are going to force the amalgamation of the Maritime provinces and lay off half your workers. So if you are really concerned about the long term ‘health’ of the public service in New Brunswick, you will be more interested in supporting the self sufficiency agenda and less about short term gratification.

But unions seem to be more about short term gratification these days. Just as Buzz.