I appreciate the respectful tone as well. Don't forget, though, we are taxpayers too. Its hard to speak on this issue for other unions and their level of professionalism. You may have one idea in mind where I have another.
Another thing to keep in mind, its actually cost effective for the public sector to deal with a baragining unit as opposed to individuals. The government would have to set up an entirley new entity just to deal with employee contract negotiations to handle that volume of employees.
When we negotiated pay, and I will only speak to what I know, we negotiated using what our private sector counterparts in our line of business made. A government, generally, will be more stable than a business, so it won't be as susceptible to the forces of the market as a business is. When a contract is negotiated in good economic times, it may very well have been commenserate with what the private sector is doing. You don't want a government as susceptible to the market as a business is.
I know it seems like another era, but a short time ago, the argument was that government couldn't attract the best and the brightest because those individuals could do better in the private market. Therefore, the inefficiency in government was in part to blame with the wages one could make in the public vs private sector. So, we move to increase the competitiveness of a public sector job, the economy goes south, and now everyone screams that the public sector is overpaid.
It just goes to show, any one snapshot is usually not enough to paint the overall picture.
You'll see it's all a show, keep 'em laughing as you go, just remember, the last laugh is on you, and always look on the bright side of life!