Issue comes down to ‘reasonableness and affordability’
Our crown attorneys, those lawyers employed by the provincial government to prosecute criminal and statutory offenses, are seeking a substantial pay increase. It is a well-publicized circumstance. They are appearing before press conferences and, as was depicted in this very newspaper, taking their position to the streets, having organized a walk with a police escort down Charlotte Street and sticking a message on the door of provincial cabinet minister Derek Mombourquette.
First, let it be recognized that by all accounts our crown attorneys do good work. Any informed observer will tell you so. Their office is known for its courtesy and professionalism.
That said, the issue before the citizens of Nova Scotia and their government is not one of workplace performance. All too often we confuse demands for pay raises in the public sector with such criteria. It may be said that if it were simply a matter of the significance and importance of a job, then why not provide big pay raises regularly. Think of the firefighter, police officer, medical technician and on goes the list.
Were pay rates and raises to be determined merely on that basis, then why even make the sky the limit? The answer is a simple one: reasonableness and affordability. It comes down to a matter of what a fair compensation package represents. It also comes down to how one is determined.
In the case of crown attorneys, let us look at what they presently receive, what they want and what is reasonably fair and just.
Experienced crown lawyers are paid approximately $147.000 per year. On top of this they are eligible for a public sector pension, have a full medical benefit package and are compensated for expenses. In real terms this amounts to a pay rate in the vicinity of $200,000 annually.
The Sydney crown office currently has approximately 12 attorneys in addition to part-time or per diem staff, the bill for this alone being several hundred thousand dollars yearly. In addition, so-called special crown attorneys staff, on a full-time basis, various government agencies and departments. The grasp of this branch of the public state, furtively seeking to justify its own existence, has and continues to grow exponentially. Its costs are extraordinary and largely hidden from your view under the guise of supposed need and necessity.
Thirty years ago, the same Sydney crown office had four attorneys. At that time, we had a significantly bigger population and a higher crime rate. Incidentally, more crown attorneys do not lower crime rates. The police may plausibly argue that more cops do this but having 12 or more prosecutors as opposed to three or four does not affect crime occurrence.
What a bigger crown attorney office represents is yet again a burgeoning public sector approaching out of control status. The public are told that more and more officials are needed with no explanation given as to why or, more importantly, how more people doing the same job improves things.
“What the crown attorneys want is a situation where your voice in contract negotiations is silenced. How is that fair?” – David Delaney, Point of View
These crown attorneys tell us that their rights are being removed because that while given the right to strike, they can no longer have what amounts to the comfort of binding arbitration. It is worth your while to give that one some thought.
It is an odd thing for a bargaining unit to suggest that they are losing rights in being given the right to strike. However, what I refer to as the comfort of binding arbitration is just that; binding arbitration takes away the power of you, through your elected representatives, to have a say in the collective bargaining process. It compels you to take what an arbitrator says is the right solution.
Binding arbitration is something that should be left to negotiating parties to agree to in any individual bargaining process and not made as a fixed rule in every such process.
What the crown attorneys want is a situation where your voice in contract negotiations is silenced. How is that fair?
Looking beyond the process of negotiation, is it fair in this province to provide an increase in the approximate amount of $20,000 to public officials already making an effective income (factoring in the noted benefits and pay) of $200,000?
This question should be left to a full, open and complete negotiation process between the parties and their respective representatives. A system of compulsory negotiation closes that process from public involvement, allowing those inside the public sector bubble, as here with the crown attorneys, to once again be insulated from public scrutiny and participation.
David Delaney lives in Albert Bridge. He can be contacted at David2308@msn.com.