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There's no room to fund pay increases through cuts, says BCFED

Paying for government wage increases out of cuts to an already lean public service won't work, said British Columbia Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair.

"I don't see any efficiencies or fat in the system at all," said Sinclair, responding to yesterday's B.C. throne speech. "There's nothing left. Everything's been cut to the bone already."

With many public sector contracts coming up for renewal in 2012, the speech said, "Though taxpayer-funded public sector wage increases will be challenging to achieve, and must fit within the fiscal plan, your government understands that public servants need to be treated fairly."

Talking with reporters, Premier Christy Clark later said, "What I am trying to do is find a way to both respect taxpayers, in the midst of a really tough economic situation . . . but also trying to be fair to public servants.

"Trying to find some way if we can, without adding any cost to taxpayers, without changing our bottom line, because we can't afford to do that, trying to find a way if there are co-operative gains that can be found within agreements, that there's a possibility for wage hikes within those agreements."

Clark is saying that if the government can find savings through the negotiations, it will share those savings, said New Democratic Party Leader Adrian Dix. "This is a continuation of a long term policy of the government," he said. "We'll have to see what it means if anything."

Sinclair -- who panned the throne speech as "a series of photo-ops strung together in a speech" -- pointed out the province already has the smallest government per capita in Canada. "The day of the zeros are over," he said. "People aren't going to accept zeros. That's the bottom line . . . Like everybody else in society they deserve a raise."

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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