The Canadian Taxpayers Federation said Friday that government employees in Alberta took an average of 14.4 sick days last year — more than any other province.
The CTF used data from Statistics Canada. It shows in 2018, federal government employees took an average of 12.2 sick days per year, compared to the national private sector average of 6.9 days.
Alberta recorded the largest gap between sick days in the private and public sectors, the CTF said. In the private sector last year, workers took an average of 5.7 sick days — a 153 per cent difference from sick days in the public sector.
“Alberta government employees took off, on average, 14.4 days in 2018 for sick days. That’s nearly three full weeks worth of sick days in 2018,” CTF Alberta Director Franco Terrazzano said.
“The cost of sick days for the Alberta government is a lot of money,” he added. “It totaled about $850 million in 2018.
“We’re not saying that you’re going to be able to completely get rid of sick days in government — just like you can’t in the private sector — but if the Alberta government were to bring in sick days to match the private sector level, it could save about $500 million,” Terrazzano said.
The CTF brought care packages to the Alberta legislature on Friday, complete with chicken soup, cough syrup and tissues.
“I like to think that a lot of government employees in Alberta are using the system the right way — they’re using the sick days the way they’re supposed to be — but when you look at the overall data, it’s clear we have a problem,” Terrazzano said.
“It’s time for leadership to say: ‘Enough is enough. We’re not going to be a high-cost government anymore and we’re going to take pride in being a taxpayer-friendly government.”
Watch below (Dec. 6, 2017): Sick days are up by 29 per cent over a five-year-period at 50 of Ontario’s public school boards – from nine days to 11.6 days per average employee – causing financial and resource allocation pressures. Shallima Maharaj reports.
READ MORE: Signs you’re too sick and should stay home
James Hart, a vice president with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, worries this CTF statement is an attempt by the federation to get on the UCP government’s good side.
“We have to be concerned with how they are coinciding with this government on the attacks on the public service workers.
“I believe this… is this organization’s way of getting in favour with this premier and this government with the rhetoric of attacking public service workers,” Hart said.
He added cutting sick days “would be an attack on the benefits. Again, the labour movement has fought for benefits and to have these rights. If a person’s sick, they have the right to call in.”
On Friday, AUPE members in Edmonton were once again rallying in protest against the province’s Bill 9.
The Public Sector Wage Arbitration Deferral Act, now law, delays wage arbitration with tens of thousands of unionized employees in Alberta. The union says the legislation violates their bargaining agreements, which promised wage arbitration after two years.
A judge granted the AUPE’s bid for an injunction July 30, preventing the United Conservative government from implementing Bill 9.
The three-judge panel reserved its decision Thursday, meaning a decision on whether the province can delay wage arbitration will likely come next week.
Watch below (Aug. 29): The Alberta government and a union that represents a large number of public sector workers were back in court on Thursday to make arguments about the contentious Bill 9. Tom Vernon has the latest.
— With files from The Canadian Press