Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The high price of cheap labour

City hall is angling to put council's pay back into the political arena, where it has elsewhere rewarded politicians at every level with huge pay increases. From the London Free Press:

City staff are setting the terms for a citizens' committee to review the political pay, the focus likely to include salaries and any extras for serving on boards and commissions, pensions and expenses. Who will sit on that group, and when its work will be done, hasn't been nailed down.
Since 1998, annual remuneration increases for elected officials in London have been set by policy at the lesser of the Ontario Consumer Price Index or Labour Index. This is a decent attempt to remove politics — which tends of course to serve mostly politicians, as well as their sponsors and beneficiaries — from consideration of what deputy mayor Tom Gosnell calls "a very difficult issue for everybody." Needless to say, however, the policy is set by politicians; at best, politicians have only temporarily volunteered to refrain from politics. The armistice is over for some:
Coun. Bernie MacDonald, said council's pay is so relatively low, it's ridiculed by other civic politicians or angers them. "When other councils are having their (wages) reviewed and London's is used as a comparison, it brings down the average. When I'm at FCM (the Federation of Canadian Municipalities) meetings, I've had many of them come up to me and ask, 'What's wrong with London?'"
I don't think that this kind of comparison shopping is likely to stir up much sympathy except among other politicians, but it's a common rationale for hiking wages. Little wonder, because it drives an endless escalation. But these kinds of comparisons are almost always idle and misleading for the failure to factor into account other compensation benefits that politicians receive — tax-free pay bases and allowances, for example. Councillors in London receive one-third of their salary tax-free, making their taxable equivalents much higher, and receive at least one $5,400 allowance of which I am aware.

In any case, it's distinctly odd that MacDonald of all people should be complaining — salaries have not deterred him from acting as a councillor for… well, I don't know how long, but it's been as long as I can remember. Hey, $31,414 a year, which works out to be the taxable equivalent of $40,482 because of the tax-free base, is after all a pretty good deal for a part-time job, if you can get it. And there's never been a shortage of people trying to get in on the deal, either, which pretty much wraps up another common rationale for hiking wages — competitive pricing, which supposes that high salaries are necessary to recruit people into the position.

But there's a caveat to the competitive pricing rationale that merits attention — the idea that salaries should be priced to attract competent politicians. OK… so what are they supposed to be competent at?

1 Comment:

Jake said...

We seriously need to field a candidate for the next civic election against Bernie "the dinosaur" MacDonald.

From sponsoring reverse-onus "Graffiti" bylaws to blaming Fanshawe/UWO students for everything wrong in London and to making up foolish excuses to why we shouldn't allow overnight parking on city streets--makes this councilor, in my opinion, the one who needs to get the boot the most.

Now I know that Gina Barber, Susan Eagle, Judy Bryant, Joni Baechler, David Winniger and Bill Armstrong are all bad, but MacDonald has been on council for almost 30 years and has never shown any "accomplishments" worth noting in that entire span.

Whatever problems that have led to this city's poor fiscal direction and crubling state of infrastructure can be attributed to his lack of leadership or general complacency towards the status-quo.