Alberta government demanding 4-per-cent salary rollback from civil service

·2 min read

The Alberta government is telling its unionized employees to accept a four-per-cent pay cut this year, with some workers facing an additional cut of three per cent, according to the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees.

Kevin Barry, vice-president of AUPE, said the new proposal from the government came on Thursday. The province had previously offered a one-per-cent salary rollback with three years of zero increases.

"To come now, during a pandemic, it is certainly surprising and disappointing," Barry said. "To come and ask the public sector workers to make up for their failure to provide jobs for Albertans is really not going to help the economy."

The province has been signalling such a move for months, after forecasting a $24.2 billion deficit in the first-quarter fiscal update. Last month, Premier Jason Kenney said political staff in his government were taking a seven-per-cent pay cut.

In a late afternoon news release, Finance Minister Travis Toews confirmed government negotiators asked for an additional three-per-cent rollback in addition to the one per cent that was already on the table.

"The mandate presented to the union reflects the province's current economic and fiscal reality," Toews said.

"The government is asking unionized public service employees to be part of the solution, as we face the worst economic crisis in nearly a century.

"This is a fair and reasonable offer. The union's in-going proposal is asking for a five per cent raise, while thousands of Albertans working in the private sector have already taken pay cuts."

Barry said the government is looking at reclassifying some job categories, which could result in workers taking an additional three-per-cent reduction in salary.

He said the union may file a bad-faith bargaining complaint with the Alberta Labour Relations Board. Union and government negotiators will meet for more talks next week.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley said the government is trying to solve its financial problems on the backs of its own employees, many of whom make around $50,000 per year.

"The problem with Alberta's finances are not the frontline workers doing their jobs in the middle of a pandemic," Notley said. "The problem is Jason Kenney and the UCP."

The AUPE and the province paused negotiations on a new collective agreement in April due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Talks resumed last month. The union learned via a disclosure letter from a government negotiator that up to 930 of its members' jobs could be cut.