Monday, 15 June 2015

Money or Respect

For almost a year, police officers and other municipal employees in Quebec have been wearing camouflage pants or other non-standard leg wear to protest the provincial government's reforms on municipal pensions.  According to the government, the pension plans carry a collective deficit and are not sustainable in the long term.  Municipal employees are accusing the government of breaking faith with previously-established contracts.

The situation came to a head last week when a former Premier of Quebec passed away, and the officers who worked security at the state funeral were not wearing their full uniforms.  This resulted in a public backlash, with many saying that the officers were extremely disrespectful to have done so.  The mayor of the city of Montreal has stated that he has had enough and will lobby the government to pass legislation to force municipal workers to get back into uniform.

It's difficult to say if that would be going too far.  The Superior Court of Quebec effectively granted the workers the right to wear the pants as a means of protest, because they have no mandate to strike.  Any further action by the government would be seen as changing the rules to suit themselves.  No matter what contract has been negotiated and agreed upon, no matter that it is legally binding, the government can just create a law to void the contract.

On the other hand, the original contracts were unsustainable from the get-go.  As an example, Montreal firefighters had a pension plan that effectively paid them full salary when they retired after putting in more than 25 years of service.  In order to safeguard this arrangement, eighty firefighters retired en masse in June of 2014 because they didn't want to lose money that they felt they were entitled to.

It's a tricky situation, especially when it's being underlain with disrespect on both sides.  The way some see it, the government is eroding the things that built our country and way of life: the right to disagree, negotiate, protest, strike, and be heard.  Are we living in a free democracy or in a totalitarian state?  Politicians seem to have way too much power, when we as a population should be telling them what we expect of them.

No comments:

Post a Comment