I am a Civil Servant

I keep hearing from various media outlets and bloggers how much money is wasted on the Government and such, and inevitably out of these discussions comes statements about the Civil Service, and I now feel that I have the right to comment on this stuff (having worked in both the Private and now the Public Sector).

Let’s go over a few of the more interesting points that some folks seem to have an opinion about:

  • I am  paid by your taxes, but strangely I also pay taxes as well. One media outlet seemed to be implying that Civil Servants didn’t pay taxes, but I can assure you, I pay taxes just like everyone. No free ride here.
  • Pretty much everybody can easily figure out from information readily available how much I make, which is disconcerting, since when I worked for Nortel, people could guess but they couldn’t be sure they knew how much I made.
  • Someone does drive me into work in the morning (these days), but he or she works for OC Transpo, I don’t get limousine rides to work every day (yes, someone asked me that exact question when they heard I worked in the government).
  • Are we all lazy? Let’s not go there on this one, let’s just say I have seen good and bad in both the Public and Private sector, and leave it at that. Some might argue I am a Lazy Sod, so maybe you shouldn’t ask me?

From what I can tell, a lot of misconceptions folks have about Civil Servants (or Public Servants) seems to come from the perks that Members of Parliament get.

The major issue I keep hearing is that I have a “gold-plated free pension”, which is an interesting fallacy, that again comes from the MP side of things. Yes, I have a very nice pension (that many people do not have, so I do realize that having a pension is a great benefit), that was negotiated with an elected government, but is in no way “free” to me. I pay a great deal of money into the Pension Plan, and will more likely have to pay more soon, to retain this privilege, but I did have this same privilege when I was at Nortel (until it all fell apart).

Yes, the taxpayer pays for part of my pension, but that is because they are the folks bankrolling my employer (i.e. the Federal Government), so again, I am kind of paying into that too.

Unlike Members of Parliament, Civil Servants take 35 years to get a “full” pension. Members of Parliament get a FULL pension after 6 years (oh and I don’t think they put much money in on their side either).

A Civil Servants “full” pension can be calculated as (assuming they work for 35 years in the Civil Service):

70% of an average of your 5 best years salary, which is then discounted by how much CPP you will get paid (once you are CPP eligible)  {simple isn’t it ?}

What’s the point of all of this? Just me venting at some of the more asinine commentaries I have seen on the Media and in the Blogosphere lately. If anyone cares to try to refute or ridicule my opinions, have at it, I am prepared to discuss whatever points you like on the topic of the Civil Service and it’s Pension system.

 

{ 45 comments }

{ 45 comments… add one }

  • bruce May 1, 2014, 10:39 PM

    let me ask why I pay for government pensions- I know people who work in the gov and they are the first ones to say ” work 3 hours a day, get a raise each year, and wow I pay for it. look at the roads alone and understand that working for the gov means, sleep and don’t worry about it- 84,000 gov workers in Ontario. I bet if we put 20,000 private sector people it would solve the problem. Useless

    Reply
    • bruce May 1, 2014, 10:46 PM

      haha got to love it when you type a comment and have to wait to have some lazy loser analyse it and decide if they want to allow it to be shown- that is the problem with this country and wheeeee I wont live here or pay taxes knowing that when I pay one dollar in taxes, that 50 cents of that will pay for the incompetent – come see my neighbour sleep and hey that is what he does each day when he is suppose to be working

      Reply
      • bigcajunman May 2, 2014, 5:36 AM

        Goodness, someone did shart on your corn flakes didn’t they? Comments on this site are reviewed mostly for SPAM (I get about 500 a day these days), so no your comments don’t go up automatically, but I rarely censor them (I’ll leave that to other folks).

        I trust one day you will get your moneys worth out of the Government and we lazy Civil Servants.

        Reply
    • bigcajunman May 2, 2014, 5:32 AM

      Bruce, feel free to take this up with your Members of Parliament (Provincial and Federal). You pay for the pension because your Government has employees who have a union that negotiated with your representative that you (or your parents) voted for.

      As for the public sector, maybe, but I guess we’ll never know.

      Reply
  • Rockinon July 8, 2012, 8:47 AM

    Thank you for your post. I’m beginning to think some of the biggest stumbling blocks to understanding gov’t pensions are the pensioners themselves. I was given the impression that gov’t pensions were gold plated by gov’t workers. I have heard claims that they don’t worry about the market or the economy or the health of their plans. The gov’t simply makes up any shortfall by dipping deeply in to today’s pot of tax dollars. I worked hard for almost 35 years; I paid into a DB plan as did my employer; I retired on about 25 percent of my working salary. I have no drug plan, no dental plan, no insurance. I do get to keep all my CPP so I guess the 25 percent figure should climb some when making a comparison with the gov’t pensions. After reading your post, you have made me aware I still have lots to learn about gov’t worker pensions and that talking to gov’t workers may not always yield the definitive answers.
    Cheers!

    Reply
    • bigcajunman July 8, 2012, 10:30 AM

      Wow, thanks! I do have an AMAZING pension, no argument, but I do pay a lot of money into it as well (it’s the MPs that get the real GOLD PLATED Pensions).

      Reply
  • Former Civil Servant June 28, 2012, 12:58 PM

    Blah, blah, blah. I worked for the feds for MANY years and recently left for the private sector (was not forced out) because I could not stand the blatant lack of work ethic, general laziness, ridiculous approval processes, and large number of employees who took full and willing advantage of what they are offered as being a part of the public service.

    Stop defending yourself – you do have an amazing pension, better than anyone in the country. You are offered an insane amount of sick days that carry over each year which many of you feel are rightfully yours to use for ‘mental health days’ or as I have seen time and time again the ubiquitiously bullshit ‘stress leave’ for six months. You do get get paid for every pitiful minute of overtime you do, including when travelling TO a destination for work (unheard of).

    Public servants need to stop being so sanctimonious and realize that their bad reputation comes from the people around them (or themselves depending on the case) perpetuating this behaviour. If you don’t like it, try to affect change, leave, or shut up.

    I always say – for every amazing public servant, there are five that are useless. I wish this wasn’t true but it absolutely is.

    Reply
    • bigcajunman June 28, 2012, 4:20 PM

      Sanctimonious? I re-read your comment and wondered if you were looking in the mirror when you wrote that.

      By the by, I worked 28 years in the Private Sector, I look forward to hearing how long you last there (hopefully as long as I did).

      Good luck with your future endeavors.

      Reply
      • rory June 12, 2014, 12:08 PM

        Big Cajun …really? Figure it any way you want but .gov lets you pay taxes ‘cuz it makes you feel like a part of the system and contributing. Say you make $80K, take home $60. Now if the .gov only paid you $60 – what would change. Would the .gov coffers be short 20k. No as your so-called tax contribution is just smoke and mirror. Do any calculation you wish. The private sector shoulders it all. Maybe then, public servants should not be allowed to vote as they have no skin in the game – they really don’t except their own survival. Again, the fox guarding the chicken coop.
        You are down a one way path here on taxes and pensions that has no survivability except for your constant rants …no facts but rants work better …humiliate the fact givers …good leftie you are.

        Reply
        • bigcajunman June 12, 2014, 12:34 PM

          Someone who makes $80K and takes home $60K? Not in Canada. As for the rest of your discussion, I am confused? Are you saying Public Servants don’t pay taxes?

          I do agree the Private Sector pays lots of taxes, no argument there, I worked in it for over 20 years, so I am aware of Corporate taxes and such, but the “smoke and mirror” comment has me befuddled, can you elaborate further?

  • Greg April 24, 2012, 10:12 PM

    @Philip S (or anyone else who knows): do you have a reference for the statement “Every Federal employee puts aside 9.71% of their pay for retirement benefits”? I’d like to look into the details. I vaguely remember looking into this at one point and found that this 9.71% includes CPP contributions and the 70% payout includes CPP payments. This would make which would make the figure a little misleading as every employee and their employer already contributes 4.95% each to CPP up to a CPP max of about $45k. I’d say it’s really more like putting less than 5% into pension savings. In my opinion saving less than the RRSP limit of 18% (which doesn’t include any CPP that comes off the top) really isn’t saving very much.

    Reply
  • Michael James March 19, 2012, 3:00 PM

    @Philip S: Your contention that the bulk of government paralysis is “safeguards” is laughable. I’m happy to leave the safeguards and eliminate the massive unnecessary bureaucracy.

    Your figures on the percentage of worker pensions paid for by various parties is based on an overly-optimistic actuarial valuation. Future taxpayers will be on the hook for all shortfalls.

    Reply
  • Corina March 19, 2012, 9:32 AM

    wow and wow.
    To quote my original post:”Also , before you defend your pension, LET’S ADD UP paid sick days, vacation, official holidays,” ….How conveniently you twisted my words…
    I was never mad, condescending or rude. I thought we are talking generally here, nothing personal. If I say “me” i mean “the taxpayer” if I say you I mean “the government employee”. It’s your blog, but YOU ,cajun, put this out there, so no need to get whiny and agressive.
    Also, you never countered my initial remarks – you just called me names.
    Hmm, very disappointed with your attitude.

    Reply
    • bigcajunman March 19, 2012, 9:44 AM

      My most humblest of apologies, you caught me on a stressful Sunday. So I do work for you, that’s good. If I sounded rude, again, my most sincerest of apologies. As for twisting words, that is what bloggers do best, don’t you think?

      If you wish to get back to our discourse, continue, I disagree with the whole Sick days argument (still), everyone should be getting those days (at least the Official Holidays), as for sick days and vacation, that may change in the next collective bargaining agreement as well.

      As I have said, yes I put this out there, so I will gladly take the heat that comes with it.

      Reply
  • Traciatim March 18, 2012, 9:07 PM

    Typical government emplyee, treating the general public like dirt to be scraped off their shoe.

    Reply
    • bigcajunman March 19, 2012, 4:44 AM

      As I said to the original comment, I applaud your right to write your opinions (also note I moderate these comments, so I could simply not publish your comment, but that would be a cowardly act, I opened the can of worms, I’ll take the heat).

      My apologies if you feel that every Civil Servant has it out for you, I am pretty sure most of us don’t (although I don’t feel I can speak for everyone). As for the arguments which were put forward, I stand by my statement of “bovine feces”, Government employees have a nice benefits package, but there is nothing there that is different than many other (if not close to all) employers (in the private sector) these days (for regular full time employees).

      Reply
  • Corina March 18, 2012, 8:00 PM

    Just a few thoughts on what you said:
    1. Taxpayers pay your salary – the fact that you give some back (as tax)…does it mean YOU paid anything?
    2. People know how much you make – so what? it doesn’t reduce your pay or anything
    3. I go to work by bus and pay for the bus ticket, that is driven by a busdriver paid by taxpayers, too – and usually I stand up, no limousine for me either.
    4. Yes, I do expect you to work your butt off if I pay for you – and i really don’t care if there are lazy people in the private sector. Do I pay for them?
    No.
    Also , before you defend your pension, let’s add up paid sick days, vacation, official holidays, health and dental benefits, disability, short work hours, life insurance, accidental coverage etc etc.
    Please feel free to NOT answer me – It’s bad enough you wrote this post to begin with.
    Thank you.

    Reply
    • bigcajunman March 18, 2012, 8:05 PM

      Now that is the kind of response I expected, good for you.

      Just to clarify, I don’t work for YOU, I work for all Canadians (as do all of us in the Civil Service). So no one in the private sector has, “…sick days, vacation, official holidays, health and dental benefits, disability, short work hours, life insurance, accidental coverage…”? Allow me to call “bovine feces” on your statement.

      You want to be angry, mad, condescending and rude, that is your right as a Canadian, and I applaud you for doing so. Feel free to attempt to ridicule this more, I am listening.

      Reply
  • Burnout March 17, 2012, 10:31 AM

    I work for the government (not federal) and every work day is a full tilt sprint from start to finish. I have to deal with people who get pissed off if I don’t have an answer in 20 seconds, we are chronically short staffed and I have to fix 30-60 issues a day with few resources except google. You can have my govt job. It’s not worth the stress.

    Reply
  • A. None E Moose CFP March 17, 2012, 11:01 AM

    If a private company that has a defined benefit plan ran into a debt problem as large as most levels of gov’t in canada, do you think they would still be offering the same benefit plan to employees? Of course not, they would do wham most corporations are doing, reducing benefits, changing to defined contribution etc. The resentment comes from the fact that in the private sector people lose their jobs or get laid off, wages are being frozen, benefits are being slashed etc because of structural changes in the economy. However, the public system seems to be immune from these realities. The “pain” should be spread around to all citizens, not just those in the private sector.

    Reply
    • bigcajunman March 17, 2012, 1:45 PM

      Wait for it, “the pain” is about to be seen in the Public Sector, in the next few weeks the government will announce their lay off goals and they are also negotiating a new deal with PSAC, so you might just get your wish.

      Reply
  • Traciatim March 17, 2012, 7:41 AM

    @tom:

    So what you are saying is that in order to match the government pension the BMO employees have to pay in to CPP, their regular RRSP style plan and then also pay full amounts in to a defined benefit plan? How much dos that cost the employee vs the civil service employee?

    Reply
  • matt March 16, 2012, 7:25 PM

    Well paid civil servants are a requirement in order to avoid corruption. Having spent some time in countries with civil services who don’t made good coin, I’m happy to be back.

    The same can be said for elected officials. 6 years of service means winning two elections. And while senior members and ministers frequently have cushy post-government jobs coming their way after serving in cabinet, I think most MPs face a fairly uncertain job market once they get the boot. Since we want high caliber people to essentially abandon their careers to pursue public office, the guarantee that they won’t face financial ruin if the win at least two terms seems like a reasonable provision.

    That said, the key word that I think has been missing from this conversation is “indexed”. Federal pensions pay out up to 70% of the best 5 years, and then are indexed to inflation for ever. Indexing is the gold plating. If you’re in the private sector, saving for your own retirement, this is something you can’t really duplicate. Check the price of an inflation indexed annuity sold by any major insurer recently? Your pension is guaranteed — in real purchasing power — for life, by a AAA credit. Does anyone who doesn’t work for the federal government have that?

    Reply
  • Another Taxpayer March 16, 2012, 2:37 PM

    The contribution might be split 50-50 between the gov’t and civil servant, but the shortfall when paying out the pension is paid out of federal coffers. And that shortfall is huge. A Google search shows the shortfall at $400 billion.

    Reply
  • confused March 16, 2012, 1:10 PM

    ok, that’s what I thought for civil servants, thanks.

    But what about politicians? From the article, “Members of Parliament get a FULL pension after 6 years … and I don’t think they put much money in on their side either” This can’t possibly be sustainable, can it? So they must be getting these rather generous pensions almost straight from taxation, is that right?

    Reply
    • bigcajunman March 16, 2012, 1:17 PM

      Most (if not all) of the BQ MPs who lost in the last election, will be receiving a full parliamentary pension (which I think is &70K or more), isn’t that ironic?

      Reply
  • confused March 16, 2012, 12:26 PM

    Another Taxpayer said: “what public servants pay into the plan nowhere near covers what they take out”

    Is this true? I though civil servant pension plans were required to be self-sustaining, and couldn’t for example just go out and take general revenue taxes to top up… (at least I think this is true for civil servant plans, not sure about politicians’ plans)

    Anyone know for sure?

    Reply
  • Philip S March 16, 2012, 10:18 AM

    I wanted to weigh in on 2 comments to Michael James: what you call bureaucracy can also be considered safeguards. Yes, there is a lot of approval sought on decisions and yes there is a lot of reporting but that also ensures the correct decision is being implemented and it produces accountability. Every program activity is reported back to parliament to ensure it’s accountability…would you remove that?

    Also on the comment “but the bulk of the pension value is paid for by other taxpayers.” As of January 1st, the contributions to the public pension plan is split 50-50 between the GoC and the employee. As the post points out “70% of an average of your 5 best years salary, which is then discounted by how much CPP you will get paid (once you are CPP eligible)”. So when you roll the CPP contributions and the RPP contributions together, the federal government really only puts approx. 35% towards the retirement benefits of a member.
    But let’s look at this another way. Every Federal employee puts aside 9.71% of their pay for retirement benefits that pay out 70% of their best 5 years. There is an employer top-up, for sure, but don’t you think that if every Canadian put away 10% of their pay we’d all be in better financial shape? Keep in mind that the Federal employee has no control over the investing of their retirement funds…the risk is transferred to the plan owner, for sure, but look back to the early 90’s when $30 billion was taken from that plan to pay down the debt. Just sayin…

    Reply
    • bigcajunman March 16, 2012, 10:26 AM

      Wow, I really like that reply, and I had forgotten about the “borrowing” of money by the government.

      Reply
  • Another Taxpayer March 16, 2012, 8:43 AM

    Public servants represent the vast majority of workers who have a defined benefit pension. And only 40% of Canadians have a workplace pension at all. So most taxpayers are subsidizing this very generous pension (what public servants pay into the plan nowhere near covers what they take out). I’d like to know what percent of your gross income you’re paying towards that pension. We’re paying 18% in RRSPs and fully contributing to our TFSAs (and have always maxed out our RRSPs) and we won’t get anywhere near 70% of our best 5 years in the current economy.

    Reply
    • Billy Pilgrim March 16, 2012, 10:36 AM

      Why is the assumption that public sector pensions are too generous? Maybe the private sector is too Scrooge-like. DFPs can also be sustainable if managed correctly. The baby-boom demographic bubble is the major issue, and I am paying more my DFP as a result to cover off liabilities. My DFP is also privately managed and reports annually on its sustainability and viability. I contributed approximately 14% to pension, though it was lower before 2008.

      Reply
  • Billy Pilgrim March 16, 2012, 8:23 AM

    The other issue is consider is economic context. The dramatic reduction of private sector benefits and the demise of DFPs is a relatively recent phenomenon. Why now?

    The economy is changing, and the loss of good paying manufacturing and larger industry jobs is a factor. The move to a stock market driven economy is another. When stock valuations define the viability of a company (“we only made 1 billion this year, so better cut staff benefits”) we have a disconnect. Why is our labour less valuable now?

    Big picture, I worry about middle class sustainability. Who under the age of 40 can afford to buy a house at today’s prices, save for kids education, pay off student loans, and buy RRSPs? I certainly can’t do it all.

    The generation approaching retirement got to have their cake and eat it too. Us younger folk are going to pay for their prosperity by earning less, paying more, and living a much less prosperous lifestyle. Can I at least have my defined benefit pension to give me some security in retirement?

    Reply
    • bigcajunman March 16, 2012, 8:26 AM

      I am not sure if I am going to get that much cake, maybe a small piece of pie, but yes, the generation behind me is not getting any pie either. The question is whether “the greatest generation ever” (the one before me) is an aberation, since they were really the only ones who got to retire, maybe retirement is really just a pipe dream?

      Reply
  • Tom March 16, 2012, 6:48 AM

    “Do you know of any other companies that give a guaranteed 70% of an average of your 5 best years salary rather than just something like a match on contributions? I figured most rational companies have given up on defined benifit plans because of how unsustainable they are.”

    Sure, the Bank of Montreal basically offer this to its employees. To get 70%, you need to work at the bank for about 35 years and pay into the optional, supplementary defined benefit pension plan.

    Reply
    • bigcajunman March 16, 2012, 6:54 AM

      That sounds very familiar… hmmm… Good to know, I think the issue is that ALL pension plans (or maybe only MOST) are in trouble for various reasons, the problem with the Civil Service Pension is Canadians are on the hook to clean the mess up (made by the Pension folks)

      Reply
  • SJ March 15, 2012, 10:40 AM

    Why is it that most (if not all) current conversations in traditional and social media focus on particular compensation benefits (i.e. pensions) when we need to look at full (total) compensation? I think to be fair, we need to include all forms of compensation such as bonuses, stock purchase plans, stock options, flex health benefits, company car, vacation time, etc. to base pay and pension benefits to get the full compensation picture. Only then will a true comparison become valuable, cherry picking components is not fair.

    Reply
  • Big Cajun Wife March 15, 2012, 10:21 AM

    Until you can buy milk with “extra pension value” it is not a usable add on to worker pay. If you work for the taxpayer, you are paid by the taxpayer, why would your pension come from anywhere else? Is it a nice pension? Sure I guess, having never had one, I wouldn’t know. Is it a good system, don’t know that either. I do know you can’t buy groceries with public impression.

    BCW.

    Reply
  • Michael James March 15, 2012, 10:56 AM

    @BCW: Don’t worry, the extra pension value will buy plenty of milk for you in a few years.

    @SJ: I agree completely. All forms of compensation must be included in any meaningful comparison. However, if one were to do this and assess skills levels as well, civil servant pay would look very attractive for the average person. Only top performers are generally better off in the private sector.

    Reply
  • Chris March 15, 2012, 8:58 AM

    Another fallacy that I’d like to see fixed is that there is a difference between DB Plans where you did or didn’t see a deduction on your paycheque. Forget about what your gross or net pay is, your total compensation package (salary, plus benefits, both employer and employee contributions, taxable or not) is how individuals are really compensated for the work they do. There is little difference between the employee making $45K with the employer kicking in $5K to the pension plan and the individual in the company next door where the salary is $47500K with a mandatory $2500 from the employee matched by the company. Yes, there are a lot of assumptions, but both see the same net pay and the same net benefit, all else being equal. Instead, they probably think they make differing amounts of money, but are equally compensated.

    Reply
  • Michael James March 15, 2012, 9:19 AM

    The problem with public service is not that workers are lazy; it is that so much of their time is wasted by rules and so much of the work they do is useless or wasted. The bureaucracy creates great piles of work that provides little benefit to anyone. Bureaucracy exists in the private sector as well, but to a much lesser degree.

    As for pensions, workers pay for part of them in direct deductions and a much smaller part indirectly in the taxes they pay, but the bulk of the pension value is paid for by other taxpayers. If you add this extra pension value to worker pay, government workers are paid much more than private sector workers with the same expertise.

    Reply
  • Sandy March 15, 2012, 6:51 AM

    I too am a public servant (should I hang my head low when I say that). And yes, have been subjected to the ridicule. But I too contribute heavily and have for the last 11 years. I may only have 6 years left and do look forward to maybe getting 17 years x 2%, or 34% of my salary. What I do know is I will have to find other ways to subsidize that. Hubby thinks I should just work til I’m 90. I tell him to make more money (he has an IPP for his self-employed business). And my RRSP was hit when Nortel collapsed–a lot of people were burned.

    Reply
    • bigcajunman March 15, 2012, 6:55 AM

      Don’t hang your head in shame, I feel more “ashamed” when I speak of Nortel, than now.

      Reply
  • Traciatim March 15, 2012, 6:37 AM

    Do you know of any other companies that give a guaranteed 70% of an average of your 5 best years salary rather than just something like a match on contributions? I figured most rational companies have given up on defined benifit plans because of how unsustainable they are.

    Reply
    • bigcajunman March 15, 2012, 6:51 AM

      Defined Benefit implies the employee is not making any payment, Civil Servants are kicking in a good chunk of pay every pay cheque for their pension. Nortel’s Pension if I had stayed there was a Defined Benefit (where I didn’t need to put ANY money in) and I would have received almost 60% of my pay, plus an early retirement allowance, so I am actually paying much more for my pension now, than I did back then.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defined_benefit_pension_plan

      Reply

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