The law governing B.C. Ferries should be changed to freeze wages and ban lavish bonus hikes, NDP Leader Adrian Dix says.
Dix said the Liberal government could easily amend the Coastal Ferries Act to bring B.C. Ferries in line with wage and bonus rules seen in other Crown corporations.
“What I want them to do now is to apply the same standards they apply to everybody else to B.C. Ferries compensation,” Dix said.
“The idea of eight per cent [wage] increases and six-figure bonuses is not appropriate.”
B.C. Ferries revealed last week that its board of directors had authorized salary and bonus increases for the CEO and two vice-presidents, based, in part, on the corporation’s modest $15-million profit in the past fiscal year.
But the quasi-private corporation’s profit was only possible with an increased $21.5-million government subsidy this year, on top of more than $153 million injected annually by the provincial government.
B.C. Ferries is struggling with low ridership, increasing ticket prices, looming capital costs for ferry replacements and government-mandated route reductions.
“It’s very hard for the public to accept, as ridership declines, six-figure bonuses for ferry executives on the one hand and the ferry corporation to be so out-of-sync of what’s required by everybody else,” Dix said.
Ferries CEO Michael Corrigan earns $563,000, which is the most allowed under a provincial law. But that law does not limit compensation for two vice-presidents, who saw their bonuses more than double in the past year to as much as $133,711 and now earn close to $500,000 each.
“My view is these salaries are extremely high as is, in terms of the public sector, and it’s simply no longer acceptable in these times,” Dix said.
The government passed rules last year that freeze executive wages in the public sector and eliminate bonuses as part of financial austerity measures.
But B.C. Ferries remains a taxpayer-subsidized private corporation and is not subject to the rules.
Transportation Minister Todd Stone has said he is concerned about the bonuses, which he said send the wrong message during times of fiscal restraint. He has pledged to talk to the B.C. Ferries board about the issue.
Board chairman Donald Hayes, who authorized the pay raises, has refused to comment.
Dix blamed Premier Christy Clark and Stone for failing to include B.C. Ferries in restraint measures.
“They have to take responsibility,” he said. “Their plan doesn’t work. And so why not provide the direction that is clearly required here? Otherwise, the premier supports these bonuses. The minister supports these bonuses. All their talk about it is not consistent with the fact they could do something about it. But they don’t, every year. The reality is, they support them.”
If the Liberals don’t change the law, Dix said the Opposition NDP would introduce the amendments during the next sitting of the legislature.
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