Alberta extends wage freeze to non-union employees in public service

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WATCH ABOVE: Tough economic times have pushed the province to expand a wage freeze for some provincial employees. Shallima Maharaj explains – Jan 14, 2016

EDMONTON – After freezing the salaries of cabinet ministers, MLAs, and political staff, Alberta’s finance minister announced Wednesday the government was extending the salary freeze. Critics said the move was a step in the right direction, but doesn’t go far enough.

“We are extending that salary freeze to management and other non-union employees in the Alberta public service.”

Joe Ceci said approximately 7,000 people would be impacted.

The wage freeze is set for two years and is estimated to save $28.5 million annually.

“I want to make it clear that as a government, we value the hard work and leadership of these employees,” Ceci said. “This will hold the salaries of all of these employees to 2015 levels.”

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It also freezes any movement within employees’ salary grid.

Ceci said government respects the collective bargaining in those contracts, but says these are difficult times and believes the economic situation will be part of any future collective bargaining discussions.

“We have acted on many fronts to strengthen the revenue side of the ledger, however the economic realities of our situation dictate that we must also closely look at expenses,” the finance minister said.

“We are facing difficult financial challenges in this province.”

A statement from the Wildrose Official Opposition suggested the freeze was “only the smallest of political gestures given many of these senior managers are the most well-paid individuals across government.”

“The NDP ignored all warnings and acted as if it was business as usual in the summer when Alberta was still on pace to see a record deficit, but it’s a positive first step that they have reversed course on their position,” Wildrose Shadow Finance Minister Derek Fildebrandt said in the statement. “This is a small gesture that we hope will lead to addressing the much larger problem of bureaucratic bloat.”

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) commended the freeze, but also suggested it “doesn’t go far enough.” The group recommended a 10 per cent reduction in compensation for all government employees, which it claimed would save taxpayers $2.5 billion annually.

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“It’s time for the government to fall in line with the realities faced by the rest of the province,” CTF Alberta director Paige MacPherson said in a release.

“Look at the oil patch: companies aren’t freezing salaries for 3.5 per cent of their workers. They’re slashing wages and struggling with layoffs.”

The head of the largest union in Alberta says the freeze on the salaries of about a quarter of the provincial workforce is a shot across the bow in collective bargaining.

Guy Smith, president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, was commenting Wednesday after the province announced the two-year freeze affecting about 7,000 non-unionized civil

The government says the move will save the government about $57 million as it bargains with teachers, nurses and the AUPE over the two-year period.

With files from The Canadian Press

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