Alberta asks to cut public service pay as high as five per cent

A report last summer said the province pays much higher on average per capita for public services

Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews, left, delivers the provincial budget as Premier Jason Kenney looks on, in Edmonton, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

The Alberta government is seeking wage rollbacks as binding arbitration is set to resume with unions that represent more than 180,000 public-sector workers.

Finance Minister Travis Toews says the United Conservative government will ask arbitrators to impose an average two-per-cent wage cut in 30 upcoming public sector wage cases, but the amount will vary. In some cases, it will ask for reductions as high as five per cent.

Toews said the province has great respect for what the workers do, but public-sector pay accounts for more than half of government expenses and is higher than comparable provinces.

He said the goal is to bring salaries in line with workers in similar provinces.

“We want to be fair to our public sector,” Toews said Tuesday.

“(But) the MacKinnon panel (on Alberta’s finances) recommended that over time we would move our public sector remuneration in line with the other provinces and this will accomplish that.”

Workers affected include nurses, teachers, social workers, hospital support staff, prison guards, conservation officers, toxicologists, restaurant inspectors, therapists and sheriffs.

They were to have their wages reopened earlier this year under collective agreements, but the province passed a law to delay the talks until Oct. 31 so it could get information from a panel headed by former Saskatchewan finance minister Janice MacKinnon.

The panel reported in August that Alberta pays much higher on average per capita for services and in some cases receives poorer results. It urged immediate action to reduce spending to end multibillion-dollar deficits and spiralling debt.

The unions had been asking for pay raises ranging from three to almost eight per cent, and the government had initially been pushing for a wage freeze.

Toews said circumstances now demand a cut.

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees called the move a direct attack on the livelihoods of front-line workers and their families.

“This is a further hit to hard-working Albertans who have already taken two years of zero wage adjustments,” president Guy Smith said.

“The anger that has built up is now in danger of spilling out into the streets.

READ MORE: Alberta tables climate plan for industry; retains key parts of old legislation

“Over 1,000 AUPE activists gathered at our recent convention in Edmonton. They unanimously endorsed a resolution to fully support any groups of members that take direct action against their employer.”

Earlier this week, the government tabled legislation to allow it to use replacement workers instead of union staff to cover off essential services in case of job action.

In last week’s budget, Premier Jason Kenney’s government said it aims to reduce the size of the civil service, mainly through not filling jobs when they come open.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Four Maskwacis residents charged with 38 crimes Nov. 9

Maskwacis RCMP: four arrested following armed robbery, pursuit and home invasion

Lest We Forget

Remembrance Day service in Rimbey well attended

Long-term outlook for Ponoka County finances still up in the air

Big hit taken via refunds for shallow gas producers

VIDEO: Canadian allergists’ group wants Benadryl behind the counter due to side effects

Some doctors say the medication is over-used because of its easy availability

Small group of Cherry fans protest his firing at Rogers HQ

One sign at the Toronto rally: ‘Rogers cancels Don, we cancel Rogers’

Ideas for Alberta independence would increase costs, Nenshi says

Province has formed panel to examine how to get what a ‘fairer deal’ from Confederation

Alberta harvest a ‘growing crisis’: MP Blaine Calkins

Alberta Conservative MP’s resolve to assist farmers struggling with harvest

Petition to ‘bring back Don Cherry’ goes viral after immigrant poppy rant

Cherry was fired from his co-hosting role for the Coach’s Corner segment on Nov. 11.

‘We love you, Alex!’: Trebek gets choked up by ‘Jeopardy!’ contestant’s answer

The emotional moment came in Monday’s episode when Trebek read Dhruv Gaur’s final answer

Imperial CEO says no to Aspen oilsands project until Alberta oil quotas gone

Imperial confirmed a plan to boost production from its Kearl oilsands mine

Three men charged after ‘targeted’ shooting, evacuation at Alberta mall

The accused, who range in age from 25 to 37, were arrested Sunday and remain in custody

Most Read