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MLA calls out government over ‘sneaky’ wage increases

By: Sara Wilson

  |  Posted: Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 06:00 am

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Airdrie MLA Rob Anderson called out the Alberta government on July 28 over what he said is a premature end to its three-year wage freeze on senior government officials.

As part of contract negotiations between the Alberta Union Public Employees (AUPE) union and the Government of Alberta, a seven per cent increase was approved for deputy ministers and other political appointees.

“Chalk it up as another broken promise on what seems to be a never ending list,” Anderson said. “It appears the PCs thought they could quietly sneak through a pay hike for their senior appointees and insiders in the middle of summer without anybody noticing they were breaking their word.

“The PC culture of entitlement hasn’t died with the Redford era. It still lives on.”

The government approved an order in council that will increase deputy minister salaries from $275,159 per year to $294,151 per year.

“It’s important to understand the context” said Jessica Jacobsmino, press secretary to the president of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance.

“The increase was a result of contract negotiations between AUPE and the government. I think it’s crash politics to peg one level of public servant against the other, these are hard-working government employees.”

The AUPE has been in negotiations with the government for 16 months.

“Front-line employees fought tooth and nail to get a fair collective agreement that reflects Alberta’s economy,” said AUPE President Guy Smith. “The negotiations were some of the most difficult AUPE has ever encountered.

“The irony is the same people who sat across the bargaining table from us, who tried to legislate wage freezes and strip us of our right to arbitration in Bill 46, have now taken the same wage deal they fought to keep from their own front-line staff. There’s no way any of them can say unions have outlived usefulness.”

The move comes just 17 months after the government said they would freeze salaries for public sector managers for three years.

Finance Minister Doug Horner said at the time, the government was “leading by example” after a bad fiscal quarter update in 2013. He claimed it would save taxpayers $54 million.

“Alberta is dealing with rapidly falling resource revenues and it means we’re making some tough decisions,” Horner said in February 2013. “Our government is leading by example - with a slimmed down cabinet; an eight per cent MLA pay cut and a pay freeze for MLAs; today we’re taking action on management salaries.”

“This is the second pay increase since 2009,” Jacobsmino said.

“(Deputy minister’s) salaries were frozen between 2009 and 2012 and again in 2013. You have to remember that these positions come with specialized skills set and it’s no different than compensation workers would find in large corporations.”

Officials with the Alberta Utilities Commission, Alberta Human Rights Commission, the Public Affairs Bureau and various other provincial boards and commissions will also receive a pay increase.


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