Like public transit in most B.C. communities outside the Lower Mainland, Kelowna’s bus service is operated by a private company contracted by BC Transit, a provincially owned crown corporation. Among its duties, the contractor is responsible for hiring employees and negotiating their pay.
So then why are these workers being affected by the province’s net-zero mandate, which dictates to public-sector unions that they have to take two years of zero pay increases? My story about the dispute is in today’s Globe and Mail.
Basically, it’s because the private company is providing a public service. The government gives the company enough money to run the system, including wages, and adds some profit to the top. And the government has decided that because of it’s mandate, it’s not going to pass on any more money to the company for pay raises. But it doesn’t have to play the heavy, instead the company -unless it wants to cut into its profits- has to be the one to say no directly.
Essentially, it’s still the government running the show. It dictates what service must be provided, and on what terms. The private company just provides a layer of insulation from blame when things go bad or it makes an unpopular decision.
Clearly, this is a situation that isn’t good for the workers. It also seems to me that this isn’t good for taxpayers either, since we’re paying a company more than it costs to actually run the system. That extra we spend on the company’s profits could instead be used to improve service, reduce costs or pay the workers a bit more.
The only people the current situation helps are politicians and the shareholders of the companies they hire to run transit.