It's the fifth anniversary of my retirement from the federal public service and, for the most part, I couldn't be happier. For most of the past five years, I've given little thought to those still slaving away in the federal public service.
It wasn't as if I was unsympathetic. It was sad to see my friends suffer through the machinations of a government bent not only on cutting jobs but doing so in the most trying way. Instead of cutting programs outright, the government of the day chose to cut positions and then make workers compete against one another for the jobs that were left.
Yet I was retired; this was no longer my fight. If things were bad, it was up to those still working to fight the good fight and make them better. My fighting days were over.
Well, it turns out that it still is my fight. A government with a hate-on for its workers doesn't just go after those still employed; it also revels in undermining the security of its former workers: us retirees.
This year has seen the implementation of an additional roughly $500 payment for my healthcare plan. Despite protests from our retirees association and from the unions, the government effectively broke our contract and unilaterally imposed the extra charge.
I'm afraid this $500 surcharge is just the beginning. Next it might be the reduction or even outright elimination of pension indexation. Finally, it could be the curtailment of the pension itself.
The government has already imposed new pension restrictions on current employees. They've reduced the available benefits and made it harder to qualify for a pension.
It's becoming clearer and clearer to me that I can no longer comfortably sit back and enjoy my retirement secure in the knowledge that my hard-won benefits will continue unabated. So long as the current government is on their revenge-bent course, I have to be involved.
That's why I began to write opinion pieces condemning the government's actions, particularly their possibly illegal imposition of a healthcare surcharge. I've also offered my services to my retirees' association.
The latest battle involves sick leave. Like most retiring federal government workers, I accumulated a large bank of unused sick days just in case I needed them for a surgery or a prolonged illness. Luckily, I never needed to use them and thus they were left unclaimed and uncompensated.
Now the government wants to eliminate this supposed liability and instead force workers to take short-term disability leave. Although most experts see no problem with the current system, the government stubbornly persists with its plan. The likely result will simply be more people going to work sick and a further erosion of worker morale.
In years past, I experienced cutback exercises by different governments of the day. Although I disagreed with many of the proposed initiatives, I seldom sensed that there was any underlying animosity at work. That's no longer the case.
The current government persists in its employee-bashing measures even in the face of contrary evidence. There is a palpable feeling of revenge underlying these measures, a punishment to be visited on public servants.
Public servants have always served as a useful whipping boy. The government can reliably count on public support as most people perceive government employees to be underworked and overpaid. Rather than fight for others to get better benefits, most Canadians prefer to run down public servants in an unfortunate race to the bottom that the government and its supporters are only too happy to exploit.
This time, however, it looks like the government has gone too far. The signs are there as cutbacks have resulted in safety violations, tainted meat, exploding oil trains and actual loss of life. People are starting to have their eyes opened and aren't buying the tired old saws.
And what's the surest sign that things may be changing? When a comfortable, complacent, 65-year-old federal retiree says enough is enough.
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