L'auteur explore une avenue différente de politique salariale pour le secteur public québécois qui consisterait à fixer le niveau des rémunérations des salariés de l'État à un niveau comparable à celui pratiqué par les industries du secteur privé en concurrence sur le marché international. Il présente ensuite les résultats qu'aurait permis d'obtenir l'application d'une telle politique dans le secteur public québécois.
Over the past few years, a strong current of thought has developed at government and management levels in North America, to the effect that: employee salary levels in the public sector must be established relative to those of the private sector. This tendency has become evident in the United States and Canada as well as the Province of Québec. In the latter, during the last three rounds of negotiations in the public sector, this principle served as the basis of government salary policy.
Both Québec and Canadian unions in the public sector, nevertheless, have at-tempted to counter this tendency by negotiating a salary policy based on the idea that governments should be model employers, with obvious consequences for the private sector.
The present article places its focus on the Province of Québec and has as its object to investigate an alternative to public sector salary policy. This alternative consists of fixing the salaries of the government's employees at a level comparable to that of employees in firms of the private sector competing on the international/ outside market.
Implicit in the approach is the idea that salary policy concerning the public sector should not serve as a macroeconomic tool for governments to establish inferior conditions for their employees, in the face of problems of unemployment and inflation rooted in the market economy. Beyond normative considerations, the development of public salary policy should primarily preoccupy itself with avoiding additional pressure on the operation of the private market, while permitting the government to attract and retain a qualified workforce at salary levels comparable to those of the private sector.
In the private sector of the economy, it should be noted that no single salary rate exists for a given type of labour. Rather there exists a "constellation" of rates varying according to the supply and demand of labour.
By comparing the salaries of its employees to the average those in the private sector, the government implies that there is only one labour market in the latter and that only one salary rate exists for a given type of labour.
If Québec operated within a closed economy a public salary policy, which produced an upward salary pressure on the overall salaries of the private sector, would not have significant consequences on the level of employment. In fact, a rise in general salary levels could be accompanied by a rise in product prices. The demand for consumer goods, or the capacity of the economy to pay, would also increase with the net effect that there would probably not be any reduction in the number of jobs in the private sector. Variation at the overall level of salaries and prices could be explained simply as part of the inflationary process. Québec does not, of course, possess a closed economy. On the contrary, the province is very much "open" to competition both international and Canadian.
It becomes essential in the definition of a public salary policy, therefore, not to neglect the competitive character of Québec's economy. As a result, the potential impact of such a policy should not be considered of the same importance to businesses subject to outside or merely provincial competition. A public sector salary policy, bringing upward pressure to bear on salaries of the private sector competing on international/outside markets, could render such firms non-competitive. In addition to upward influence on prices, this could lead to a constant increase in unemployment.
As regards firms oriented purely toward the provincial market, they should be better able to absorb the rise in salaries provoked by the upward pressure of a public salary policy without endangering either their survival or their development. In fact, product market conditions usually give such firms greater latitude to pass on the impact of salary increases to the consumer through price increases, so that the level of employment remains unaffected.
The result of applying this salary policy to Québec's public sector reveals that the overall level of salaries is already almost equivalent to that examined in the private sector competing on international/outside markets. It would, thus, be possible in the short run to develop a public salary policy based on salary practice in the area.
Such a policy would have the added advantage of allowing unions in the province's public sector to satisfy two of their major demands: an increase in the basic salary of public sector employeesand a reduction relative difference between the highest and lowest salaries paid.
It is important to note that the adoption and application of the salary policy model proposed here could entail fundamental changes in our regime of collective negotiations, if of course one does not exclude collective bargaining procedures as the focal point of labour relations in the public and private sectors. In such a con-text, should not salary determination be negotiated at a level beyond the individual firm? And would not this in turn necessitate collective negotiation at the provincial level between the primary social agents concerned?
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