Differences of opinion

We’re pretty proud of the fact we have a team of staff members that run the gamut from young writers to those with decades of experience publishing News and opinion.

It makes for an interesting range of perspectives and differences of opinion.

As publisher we do have final say on what happens here, but in an effort to develop talent on our staff we have long since stepped back from monitoring every word or story. Our editor would never knowingly let something actionable or humiliating be printed, but there are times when opinions from readers or even our own staff are published that we find personally, a little too coarse or out of touch for our liking.

What we find a bit rough however, might be just fine for some readers. And frankly, the world has changed enough there are some pretty strange ways of looking at things – a reality we all have to live with.

Our cartoonist Dan Hammond this week struck an uncomfortable nerve, with his characters suggesting “Sunshine List” members get paid so much for doing so little. Nevertheless it is reflective of opinions found in our community so our editor rightly considered it as fair comment. Hammond does however provoke a moment of reflection which is part of his weekly chore.

We’ve been around a long time – well before the Sunshine List became the annual event it has since 1996 – and long enough to take exception to a sweeping generalization when see one.

While the list presents a yearly opportunity to opine about sustainability and the disparity between public and private sector workers, it should not be seen as an opportunity for a cheap shot against said workers.

Like most workplaces or organizations, there are some who deserve every cent they make and others that seem along for the ride.

Municipal employees earning over 100K get the spotlight this time of year, although their compensation packages rest with councils who actually decide pay levels and adopt pay grids. The ever burgeoning Sunshine List extends from one end of the province to the other, so it’s not just a Wellington phenomenon. Many of the new hires in management positions across our county came from elsewhere when homegrown talent wasn’t readily available.

In order to attract quality candidates, salaries have to be competitive and to retain good staff, municipal pay grids must be in keeping with current trends and legislated obligations. That the two scales often bear little resemblance to what local business can afford to pay has become almost irrelevant since local government has become an industry of its own.

The qualifications to deal with the complexities of today’s legislation are significant. Depending on the discipline, most municipal employees will have a degree if not a specialty. If anything, they deserve credit for investing in their education to qualify for these good paying jobs. Most people get that.

Today’s municipal manager has to be an expert – not only in their particular department, but in the field of human resources, counselling, coaching, and managing their subordinates to meet the insatiable appetite the public has for services. These jobs are stressful and the majority of people we know in this field work far more hours than people might believe. They are committed professionals.

As for emergency service providers, their tasks and duties have become more complex as provincial legislation has evolved. Let’s not forget either, that those salaries for the most part were agreements made with governing bodies. There is nothing unreasonable about a worker getting paid what they were offered. Again, these jobs are tough and some of the scenarios they find themselves in would be not welcomed by many people – at any rate of pay.

Although we continue to have concerns about the sustainability of local government and expectations of it, we remain confident the vast majority of public sector workers are diligent, capable people deserving of our respect – and the pay that goes with it.