Walker calls on the B.C. government to hold meaningful talks on the heels of the HST referendum.
Vancouver (31 August 2011) - Darryl Walker, President of the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE), calls on the province of British Columbia to consult meaningfully with stakeholders on the transition back to provincial sales tax:
"The results of the HST referendum have sent a clear message to the B.C. government. British Columbians disagree with the way the tax was structured and implemented, and they expect the government to consult meaningfully with stakeholders during the transition back to a PST.
As the first steps in the transition are being planned, the effect on public service workers remains unclear. Negotiations will be required to ensure that workers who were being transitioned to the federal tax system are fairly treated.
I am also concerned about the impact this decision may have on the public services our members provide to British Columbians. Estimates of the potential impact of a return to the PST on tax revenues vary widely.
While the B.C. government has estimated a gap in revenues with a return to the PST, their own budgets have proven less than reliable – with the deficit for 2010-11 coming in at $1.1 billion lower than forecast.
Our members need to know that public sector workers will not be forced to pay for the government’s political misjudgment, through another round of cuts to public services. B.C.'s public service force is the leanest of any government in Canada. There is simply no proverbial ‘fat’ left to cut.
In fact, a decade of service cuts has left many program areas dangerously under-funded – especially in resource ministry services like Forestry, Environment and BC Parks. Even the government’s former Energy Minister, Bill Bennett and BC Business Council vice president Jock Finlayson have said that B.C.'s resource ministries are underfunded, to the point where their ability to function has been severely impacted.
The B.C. government needs to state clearly how they will proceed, so that our members and the public can be assured of a stable tax system that will generate the necessary revenues to support important public services.
I will be requesting to meet with the Finance Minister in coming weeks to consult on the next steps in the transition process, to seek assurances that further public sector cuts are not planned, and to push for additional re-investments in key ministries. We hope that the government is prepared to listen."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE