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BRIAN JONES: Pandemic is an extended holiday for public-sector workers

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Let’s see if we’ve got this right: millions of workers in the private sector have lost their jobs and livelihoods, but an army of workers in the public sector are sitting at home and receiving full pay and benefits.

If this sounds slightly unfair, consider also that the still-flowing paycheques and benefits for public-sector workers are funded by the taxes paid by the millions who have lost their jobs and now rely on various government aid programs and Liberal largesse.

Maybe now, amidst the carnage the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought on the private sector, the leaders of public-sector unions will finally admit that their members are a separate, privileged class of worker. Try to do it without uttering the insulting phrase, “race to the bottom,” because these days only one sector is sinking, and it isn’t the ship civil servants sail on.

You have to wonder why governments from sea to sea accept as a given that their employees alone should be exempt from the ravages of a national economic shutdown, nor even share in paying the cost of it or bearing its painful brunt.

With the implementation of the economic shutdown in March, government employees should have been sent home on 60 per cent pay.

When the public-sector unions squawked in objection, they could have been offered a choice: take 60 per cent pay or a temporary layoff.

The federal government’s 2020-21 deficit will hit about $250 billion, depending on who is doing the counting.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thinks it is reasonable for laid-off private-sector workers to subsist on government aid of $2,000 per month.

Why weren’t public-sector workers told the same thing and given the same amount? It would have saved the federal government tens of billions of dollars, and it would have been logically consistent in the way various workers are treated.

It is more proof, as if any were needed, that government workers enjoy a special status paid for by everyone else, even by people who lose jobs and then receive a measly $2,000 per month.

A laughable explanation is that government employees are working from home, when possible. Please. Civil servants move at half speed even when they’re in the workplace.

Although, to give them their due, there were credible reports of Transportation and Works employees taking shovels home so they could lean on them in their living rooms.


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Some of my fellow unionists — especially the outdated ideologues at the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour — might be appalled at the suggestion that there should have been layoffs among government staff.

But such layoffs, if they ever came, would only be temporary. Consider your luck, and be thankful for it. Millions of people in the private sector either won’t have jobs to go back to, or they will go back to work with reduced hours or reduced pay, or both. Again, proving the privilege enjoyed by public-sector workers.

Laid-off private-sector workers are getting hit from all sides. While laid off, they are losing pension money, because with no paycheque, they aren’t contributing to their company pension plan — if they have one — or to the Canada Pension Plan.

Private-sector workers are held in such contempt by the Liberals that the paltry $2,000 per month payment of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit isn’t even tax-free, as it obviously should have been.


Civil servants move at half speed even when they’re in the workplace.


The pathetic CERB is deemed good enough for free-enterprisers, but not nearly good enough for bureaucrats.

Someone in the back has their hand up.

“Or nearly good enough for teachers.”

Buddy, don’t even start.

• • •

Two months into the pandemic, it is apparent we are not “in this together,” despite the insipid sloganeering.

Even during a worldwide crisis, we continue to treat our youth with contempt and derision, rather than with the respect and support they deserve.

To get $1,250 per month under the Canada Emergency Student Benefit, young people who apply for the money must attest that they are looking for a job.

This, mind you, when much of the economy is still shut down.

This, when there is no such requirement of people who get the CERB.

This, while government workers do even less than ever, at full pay.

Never trust anyone over 30, indeed.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at brian.jones@thetelegram.com.


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