Editorial 

Wages versus services?

Government jobs have always had that "safe" factor.

Many of the employees belong to unions, while others earn a type of unofficial tenure as the years go by.

In many places they remain sought after positions with workers often taking jobs below their training level to get a "foot in the door" initially.

At all levels of government, the jobs come with benefits, pension plans and other perks the private sector these days can rarely match and an entrepreneur rarely even considers.

The age-old standby argument has always been that governments have to offer these things to lure workers away from the private sector.

That's a hard pill to swallow when we see from the latest Statements of Financial Information (SOFI) that Whistler's payroll costs went up 12 per cent in 2010.

However we have to take into account that it is estimated that 5.7 per cent of the increase is attributable to the Olympic Games payroll and overtime.

According to the RMOW, additional labour for snow clearing and transportation, village operations, the fire department and bylaw were all required as a result of Games time operations. The Province of B.C. reimbursed Whistler for these Olympic-related costs.

So in 2010, Whistler paid $815,600 in direct labour and overtime costs related to the Games, in those areas. A further $347,400 for the Games office and communications were funded by the additional hotel room tax we receive.

All of these amounts (totalling $1.16 million) are included in the SOFI for 2010, but none of the reimbursements are included, as those are the rules of the Financial Information Act, the legislation that stipulates how the SOFI is presented.

But for many it is still difficult to take with tough economic times continuing to take a toll, and few everyday workers getting a pay rise. Many are wondering if Whistler is a "fur-coat-but-no-pants" kind of place.

This does not go unnoticed at municipal hall. In a story in today's Pique , Mayor Ken Melamed recognizes that some people may think the cost of government is too high. Looking into that, he said, is part of the ongoing organizational review underway.

You can't take the SOFI numbers at face value as a measure of salary as they do, of course, include different types of benefits.

"The figure noted for employee remuneration is not the employee's salary, nor their take home pay," states the report.

"This figure includes employee and employer portions of EI, CPP, various other required deductions, employee and employer portion of health benefits and taxes that are deducted from each pay."

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