By Rob Ferguson, Toronto Star, August 31, 2010
It’s unfair that hospital and health executives keep juicy salaries while nurses and other staff get squeezed in a two-year public sector pay freeze, the Service Employees International Union says.
The union representing health workers took fresh aim at six-figure paycheques as a second phase of freeze talks continued. The freeze is part of Premier Dalton McGuinty’s plan to fight the $19.3-billion deficit.“If the province were serious about fairness, it would be asking the executives getting paid the most to do their part, not squeezing the nurses who are earning the least,” SEIU president Sharleen Stewart said Tuesday.
Everyone knows that unions, per se, have suffered nearly mortal wounds, some of them self-inflicted, in the last decade or two, in both Canada and the U.S. However, the words, thought and push-back from this specific union president, Sharleen Stewart, represents another attempt to draw a line in the sand against the gross unfairness that pervades the economy, as executives literally bully employees, their own workers, in an increasingly abusive war to cut costs on the backs of those same workers who have played a significant part in the company's, organization's effectiveness in the past.
Ordinary people, on both sides of the 49th parallel, are not stupid. And regardless of the level of formal education achieved by each individual, we all know injustice, unfairness and abuse, even sophisticated, structural and philosophical abuse when we see it, and feel it and feel powerless to make a difference in the public debate.
Just yesterday we learned that the Wall Street bullies, who have set the model for a kind of arrogance, intolerance and injustice, providing cover for their millions of "friends" (the have's), will update their bonuses for their executives this year, because they fear a pending termination of the Bush tax cuts for the very rich, thereby making it possible for those same executives to receive their bonuses without being subject to the higher taxes.
We have become slaves to the cabal, both in government and in the private sector who provide the funds for the election of their political friends, and in many ways we are watching an inevitable, and possibly unstoppable slide into the elimination of the middle class in both countries.
And one little skirmish, like the one waged by the SEIU in Ontario, in the health care sector, an arena in which all Ontarians have access and a demonstrable need for quality services, is and could become a larger line in the sand, giving a warning shot to those politicians in bed with Wall Street, corporate power and the laws, regulations and social attitudes that come with that "affiliation," that we have had enough of your one-sided selfishness, your arrogance and your sublime self-righteousness.
As Dr. David Suzuki once put it many years ago, in an argument for sustainable development, "The economy must work for us, and not the other way round." And that means there will have to be a lot of basic changes to the way we conduct our public debate, shape our public policy, and set the guidelines for our citizens, if all citizens are to be included, as "of fair value."
And only such a society where "fair value" is a fact, and not a phony cover-up, can and will be able to be termed "just."