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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Pay Politicians Well - and Pay the "Little People" Better!

I don’t begrudge the Alberta Premier, Cabinet Ministers and other elected representatives getting “healthy” raises. Let’s face it if you pay peanuts you get monkeys. I don't want to be governed by monkeys - regardless of party affiliation.

Now will they do the same for the lowest paid people in our work force? I am talking about the working poor who work in the social service sectors. What about paying a livable wage and benefits to those folks who take care of our developmentally disabled citizens, our at-risk and troubled children and our frail and fragile senior citizens who work in the not-for-profit community based service provider agencies.

Mr. Premier, during the election you never mentioned wage hikes for elected people. However you did promise to narrow the wage gap between these people and the equivalent work done by Alberta's civil servants. True more money has been put towards staff retention efforts but it is ad hoc and one-time band-aids. A more systemic and long-term commitment to closing this gap is required if people are going to stay in the social services sector.

So far with your government's union settlements and signing bonuses and increased staff benefits, the gap is wider than ever - even with the ad hoc one-time payments. What is worse, some PDD Boards have been very slow to get into the hands of agencies and employees. So much for crisis control and urgency.

I believe our elected representatives should be paid well, very well in fact. After all they are potentially more important to our well being and long term quality of life than hockey players who can make millions of dollars a year and they have about the same shelf life as a politician.

Now Alberta has pony up and honour, respect and compensate the “little people” who do the difficult and often dirty work we need done to care for the most vulnerable in our society. Quit the delay and the deflection of the issues Premier Stelmach. Pay the working poor in community based agencies a wage that can support a family. You do it for unionized employees why not the rest of the people who work in the sector in non-profit community based agencies?

Maybe that is the message the Progressive Conservative government is sending these folks. Perhaps your government is saying they should “join a union” and pick a fight if they want to be treated fairly and with respect. I hope that is not the message you intend to be sending these working poor. What else can they do to get the attention, respect of government. Remember the responsibility to take care of the vulnerable Albertans serviced by these workers is ultimately the government's.

These people need a significant raise, just like you and your colleagues just got sir. They need enough money and benefits to live in our expensive Alberta. Is it too much for such workers to expect to be financially secure enough to to actually enjoy the so-called " Alberta advantage?"

Congratulations on your raise Mr. Premier. It was the right thing to do. Now take that same philosophy one step further and show the same concern for the working poor who are doing some of the most important and most thankless (next to a politician) jobs in our society.