VICTORIA - A little pulicized labour dispute came to an end July 8, as the Members of the Legislative Assembly Union,
Local 1, reached an agreement with its employer, the People Of B.C., Inc.
Upon reaching the agreement, the MLA union immediately stopped work, ending months of an agonizing make-the-rules campaign. The union members will continue to recieve full pay, despite the work stoppage.
THE MLAU union is in a unique bargaining position. It is both the employees representative, and thus its own spokesman, and elected spokesman for the People of B.C., Inc., and thus it employer's representative.
Negotiating the pay package was brief. The MLAs, representing the public, were in complete accord with the MLAU, and voted unanimously to accept its own offer. The pay increases are retroactive to July 1, and range from 28.5 per cent to 31 percent over two years.
The base rate for an MLA is now $39,300,
up from $24,000 on Jan. 1, 1979. The 1980 base rate was $33,536.
Semi-skilled MLAs, called cabinet ministers, will recieve $70,000 a year, a figure much easier to count than the 1980 figure of $59,052, and more fun to count than th e1979 figure of $48,000.
The head of the local, Mr. Bill Bennett, saw his salary soar to $75,100 a year, up from the 1980 figure of $63,308. The 1979 figure was a lowly $52,000.
The wage settlement complements an attractive pension plan and benefits package negotiated the last time the MLAU reopened it social contract with the People Of B.C., Inc.
MLAU secretary Evan Wolfe called the settlement a "catch-up", leaving many observers wondering what would happen if the MLAU planned to "get-ahead".
Provincial Secretary Evan Wolfe, representing the People Of B.C., Inc, agreed with his union counterpart, saying the settlement was a "special adjustment" for MLAU members
whose wages had fallen behind.
He added the employer had given similar adjustments to its other employees who had fallen behind. He cited nurses and doctors, both awarded hefty increases lately, but did not elaborate on the reason they had falled behind in the first place.
Both Wolfes, speaking as one, said the raises for the MLAU were needed to keep their salaries on a "positive level" with private sector wages. They did not say which sector of the private sector they had in mind.
The general feeling among analysts of the deal was they were not trying keep up with woodworkers, telephone installers or clerical workers. Analysts close to the negotiations wondered if they were eyeing the salaries commanded by Ian Sinclair, boss of Canadian Pacific, or Calvert Knudsen, head knock at MacMillan Bloedel. Both men are one the high side of one hundred thousand dollars a year.
Analysts felt the Wolfes' comments were based on the theory that the government has to offer better wages than the
private sector to attract the ablest people to the top spots.
"The theory has yet to be proven, but again it is being tested," commented one analyst.
The settlement also revamped the MLAU cost of living adjustment (COLA) clause. The salaries are now indexed at 100 per cent of the average weekly wage increase. The old COLA clause was indexed at 75 per cent fo the average weekly increase.
Some analysts felt the settlement was a final departure from the policy of restraint the two sides adopted in 1976, when it gave itself a 10 per cent pay decrease as an example that it was fighting inflation.
Others felt the MLAU had shown admirable restraint.
"They could have made it retroactive to 1871, or indexed it at 200 per cent," said one.
"Count your blessings."
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Last updated: Sunday, 15-Feb-2009 13:04:41 EST