Alberta Finance Minster Travis Toews is defending his government's offer to health care support workers as fair and reasonable, while the union calls it disrespectful to the people who kept hospitals functioning during the pandemic.
The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees said government negotiators have tabled an offer of a four per cent wage rollback for one year, followed by three years of zero increases in the latest round of contract talks.
Toews says AUPE was asking for a five per cent increase in salaries over the next two years, which he said is an increase of $105 million. He said Alberta can't afford wage increases while it faces down $93 billion in debt.
"Our proposal is fair, reasonable, and in the best interest of all Albertans," Toews said in a news release Friday.
"AHS is offering job security to employees in exchange for the one-time wage reduction. This is a fair and equitable trade."
AUPE vice-president Susan Slade said the offer is disrespectful to the cleaning, laundry and food services staff who kept hospitals functioning during the pandemic. She said workers in the General Support Services unit are among the lowest paid health care workers.
"It's absolutely shameful that this government thinks that this is an appropriate thing to do after given the amount of hard work that everybody has done this last 16 months in this pandemic," Slade said in an interview with CBC News.
"Members are rightfully angry. They're disappointed."
The government's latest offer to AUPE comes less than two weeks after government negotiators tabled an offer to Alberta nurses that would force them to take a three per cent salary rollback.
Emergency rooms and hospitals across the province are facing bed closures due to staffing shortages.
At an unrelated news conference earlier on Friday, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Alberta's situation isn't any different from the pressures faced by health care systems in Canada and across the world due to COVID-19.