President's Corner

The future of public service across the globe

I have been asked lately what the future holds for public servants now that we have a majority government accused of having an anti-union philosophy. The answer is I am not certain. The world has gotten smaller, as is evident by how the situation in Europe has influenced mindsets and generated fear among financial markets and governments across the globe.

As a result of intoxicated greed, an unbridled lack of oversight, and the naive assumption that markets can self-regulate, we now find ourselves facing tough economic circumstances.

When industries are allowed to self-regulate we all suffer. Public Servants play a vital role in ensuring that those who benefit from doing business within and outside of our government follow regulations developed in a framework that allows industry to prosper while remaining accountable.

All governments, both domestic and foreign, need to ensure that oversight is not an afterthought. When laws are written that favour a privileged few and rules are allowed to be ignored, people’s emotions move from a loss of confidence to civil unrest. No government can afford to be arrogant in this matter.

We are on the precipice of labour unrest throughout the world. The gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” is growing at an unprecedented rate. We have seen a consistent downward spiral of standards that were created to protect and safeguard citizens.

Our leaders label the cost of pension and other benefits as out of control expectations. Yet I have not seen anyone point to the fact that the amount lost in the financial market meltdown and paid out in corporate welfare would have sustained pension and other benefits for generations. Is it fair for citizens to expect less when we see the wealth of those responsible for this mess continue to increase at an historic rate?

The recent economic downturn has pushed employers in the public and private sectors to reconsider negotiated workers’ rights and benefits. This has resulted in questioning the value of unions in our society.  ACFO has published a special report looking into this matter, titled: Assets or Liabilities? A Business Case for Unions in the 21st Century.

The report assesses the value of labour organizations by examining the effect of unionization on factors such as employee productivity, worker and executive compensation, wages and benefits, safety, and living standards.

In our opinion, the prosperity of Canadians depends on striking a balance between the needs of corporate profits, employee compensation and social well-being. Unless there’s a change in our priorities, we will be faced with choosing between making citizens pay more, scaling back on essential services, or mortgaging our children’s future with unsustainable debt.

 

Milt Isaacs, CMA, CPFA
President, Association of Canadian Financial Officers

2011
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