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The Economist, an international weekly news magazine, devoted its January 6, 2011 edition to attacking public sector workers and their unions. CUPE National President Paul Moist sent this letter to the editor, challenging attempts to blame the global economic crisis on public sector workers.

SIR – You depict the public sector as a fattening Leviathan, but public sector employment as a share of the labour force has been declining in most OECD countries since the mid 1990s. As demand for public services increase, public sector workers are providing more services with less.

A large majority of public sector workers are in health care, social services, schools, and local government, mostly women who are far from highly paid. The average annual pay for the 600,000 members of our union is less than $40,000 a year (£26,000), hardly excessive.

Public sector unions focus on improving conditions for low income workers everywhere and push for greater accountability and transparency in public spending—but this is undermined by contracting-out and public private partnerships shielded by commercial confidentiality clauses.

Productivity of public services won’t be improved by simply mimicking private sector practices. The massive bailouts and current public deficit problems caused by the recent financial crisis demonstrate the flaws with this approach.

Attacks on public sector workers and unions are little more than an attempt to create a scapegoat and diversion for those unwilling to tackle the real problems with the economy.

Paul Moist
National President
Canadian Union of Public Employees