Letter From President MacLean: The Value of Public Sector Work

Good afternoon,

Yesterday, Halifax Chamber of Commerce CEO Patrick Sullivan, sent a misguided and ill-informed letter to his 1,600 member businesses parroting the McNeil government’s argument that public sector workers don’t deserve cost of living increases and that government is right to take away benefits that have been fairly negotiated for our members. He tells his members that public sector salaries and benefits are unaffordable.

Mr. Sullivan’s letter also provides an interpretation of the NSGEU’s bargaining position that is factually incorrect. We have responded and advised that he should review what was actually proposed at the table when we began bargaining with government back in 2015. It should be noted, as well, that our bargaining proposals were formulated before the Province announced their budgetary surplus.

I have also reminded Mr. Sullivan that the wages our members earn are spent right here, in our local economy: in fact, often at businesses that are members of Mr. Sullivan’s own organization.

When an economy is stagnant, it is more important than ever to provide fair wages for workers, as a stronger, more robust economy will produce more provincial revenue that can be used to service debt, invest in schools, and health care services, which are all important for the overall wellbeing of our province, and the businesses Mr. Sullivan represents.

I find it interesting that Mr. Sullivan takes direct aim at the long service award in his letter to Chamber members without discussing his own experience of receiving a service award when he resigned from Tourism Nova Scotia (TNS) in May 2015, before he became the Chamber CEO.According to an AllNovaScotia article in May 2016 and TNS’s Statement of Compensation required pursuant to the Public Sector Compensation Disclosure Act, Pat Sullivan received $139, 589.75 for 51 days of work after resigning, a much larger payout than any Civil Servant would receive upon retirement. It’s important to note that if a Civil Servant with 20 years service were to resign, they would not be eligible to receive their Long Service Award.

I want to be clear that I do not begrudge the fact that Mr. Sullivan received this payment, as he simply received what he negotiated for himself. That is all our members are asking for: to keep the benefits and provisions that have been negotiated. It’s hypocritical to make the argument that taxpayers can’t afford a long-term service award while accepting what is presumably a very generous severance package from the same employer. Let’s be fair.

I would encourage you to share your thoughts on Mr. Sullivan’s position on the value of the work public sector workers do, and the compensation you receive for that work. Please feel free to contact him directly: (902) 481-1240 or president@halifaxchamber.com. Or, you can contact Halifax Chamber of Commerce member businesses that you frequent to share your thoughts on Mr. Sullivan’s letter. A full member directory can be found online: http://business.halifaxchamber.com/list

In solidarity,

Jason MacLean

President, NSGEU

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