Fraser numbers just don’t make sense


Dear friends,

Sometimes you see a news story and you think, “That doesn’t make sense.”

For example, did you know that your salary has “skyrocketed” over the last 10 years?

You might think so if you glance at the latest report from the Fraser Institute, a right-wing think tank. The Fraser says compensation for public employees in Ontario shot up by 47 per cent between 2005 and 2013.

Of course, the Fraser folks admit, there was inflation during that time. And there were more public sector jobs added over the period, as Ontario grew. So the real increase per job, after inflation, was only 12 per cent over eight years.


The Fraser study doesn’t gibe with reality. Many public employees have seen their pay frozen since 2010. There was a period after around 2004 where pay raises did go above the rate of inflation, it’s true. But what the Fraser Institute doesn’t mention is what happened before then.

OPSEU members who remember the 1990s might remember losing work and wages to the Social Contract Act. You might also remember what happened under the PC government. In the Ontario Public Service, for example, OPSEU members had five years of zero pay raises. Members in other sectors suffered similar setbacks.

If you look at collective bargaining stats, OPSEU members’ pay increases since the 1990s have kept up to inflation over the long term, and that’s about it. So if the Fraser Institute says you get paid too much, here’s the answer: you don’t.

The Fraser Institute admits their statistics aren’t perfect. They don’t include people working in government enterprises like the LCBO. They don’t separate the wages of managers from those of frontline workers.

And the Fraser folks are careful not to compare public sector wages to those in the private sector.

Using the same stats they use, public sector workers – a term that includes managers and doctors – come out a few points ahead of private sector workers from 1997 to 2013.


Using collective bargaining stats – which don’t include doctors or managers – the public sector comes out a few points behind the private sector.


So when you hear about a news story about public sector pay that just doesn’t make sense, check the source. If it’s the Fraser Institute, chances are very good that their research is very bad.

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union

P.S. For more information, check out “No, Fraser Institute, public sector pay isn’t ‘skyrocketing’” at

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