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B.C. public sector set for 6.75% wage hike, costing up to $2.6B

B.C. public sector employees and their unions have signed agreements that capped cost-of-living wage increases in 2023 to 6.75 per cent; with inflation coming in at 7.1 per cent, the employees will see the maximum pay increase this year.
Victoria, B.C. The BC Nurses' Union and its 48,000 members remain without a contract.

B.C. public sector employees will receive a 6.75 per cent wage increase this year, which is the maximum allowance under the ratified collective agreements dubbed the “Shared Recovery Mandate.”

There are just over 500,000 public sector employees, of which 393,000 are unionized. The B.C. government has been signing the agreements since last year, with the likes of the BC General Employees' Union, BC Teachers' Federation and various smaller unions covering health-care and community service workers.

The three-year mandate was not pegged exactly to inflation but stipulated a “cost-of-living adjustment” (COLA) minimum increase of 5.5 per cent and a maximum increase of 6.75 per cent, depending on the provincial consumer price index (CPI) increase between March 2022 and February 2023, which turned out to be 7.1 per cent.

Last year the public sector cost taxpayers $38.6 billion, accounting for roughly half of expenditures, according to the ministry. Each percentage point increase costs $386 million total, or $311 million if only accounting for unions and other negotiated agreements. A total increase of 6.75 per cent across the board will therefore cost $2.6 billion this year. If accounting for only unionized workers, a full suite of agreements will cost an additional $2.1 billion, according to the ministry.

To date, more than 295,000 of unionized employees (about 75 per cent) are covered by tentative or ratified agreements reached under the mandate, according to the Ministry of Finance.

A key outlier is the BC Nurses' Union, whose 48,000 members remain without a contract, according to the ministry. The government has 184 “collective agreements and compensation arrangements” of which health-care providers account for 222,921 employees (45 per cent of the sector in 2022) and $19.6 billion (51 per cent of 2022 expenditures).

The mandate covered a roughly 3.5 per cent increase in 2022 and next year the mandate stipulates a two to three per cent increase, depending on the CPI next year (if CPI is greater than three per cent, the wage increases will still not exceed three per cent).

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