It is clear that the province is no longer in an economic crisis with the government’s release of its revised figures from 2022-23 of an additional $1.5 billion in revenue last fiscal year. However, the 2023-24 budget released today reinvests none of this revenue into public sector workers, leaving workers in health care, libraries, housing, transition and group homes, and education to have their income further eroded by high inflation.
A personal care assistant (PCA) who earned $46,293 in April 2020 would have to be earning $51,461 in January 2023 just to keep up with inflation. Instead, the government’s plan would have that PCA earning $47,218. “Why does the government expect people to work for less each year? A PCA is making $4,242 less in 2023 than they did in 2020 due to inflation,” said CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador president Sherry Hillier. “This is why we have a retention issue. Who would work for less each year?”
“This budget promised $23 million to Health Care workers, but none will go to essential workers who are responsible for cooking, cleaning, and changing and caring for residents. These people are leaving the sector because they can’t make ends meet,” said Hillier. “Recruitment initiatives are great, but they don’t mean anything if we aren’t paying people what they’re worth.”
“We’ve been campaigning for increased spending in public housing for years. Today, the government promised to invest $17 million to repair and renovate vacant units,” said Hillier, “but we need to talk about retention again. The reality is that they can’t fill the positions needed for these improvements because they’re not paying their workers a competitive wage. If they want this initiative to work, they need to start paying public sector workers competitively.”
“We are pleased to see the promise to release a new wage grid for ECEs [Early Childhood Educators]. For years, they’ve been expected to do more with less, and investing $64 million is a good start. They are essential for our children’s early education,” said Hillier, “and it’s time we start paying them with that in mind. I’m hopeful that this new grid will properly reflect the work they do without capping their wages.”