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Alberta government union leadership has lost touch with reality

November 20, 2019
Alberta government union leadership has lost touch with reality

Leaders at the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees have completely lost touch with reality.

document obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation shows the AUPE leadership started pushing the government for a 7.85 per cent wage increase early this year. The demand is so ridiculous you must see the AUPE’s document just to believe it. Given the current challenges in Alberta, any worker outside of government would likely be laughed out of the room with that kind of demand.

But maybe taxpayers shouldn’t be so hard on the AUPE bosses. It’s entirely possible that its negotiating team hasn’t taken a step outside of the office for the last four-plus years or turned on the radio or TV or chatted with a single Albertan who works outside of government. For the AUPE bosses’ sake, here’s a little refresher of what’s happened.

In February 2015, hundreds of people lost their jobs at Cenovus and Trinidad DrillingTrican implemented an average 10-per-cent pay cut for those lucky enough to hold on to their jobs.

A few months later Penn West and ConocoPhillips laid off hundreds more. Canadian Natural Resources reduced salaries across the company, some as much as 10 per cent to avoid job losses. Pengrowth reduced its head office full time staff by seven per centEnbridgeHusky and Suncor sent hundreds more to the ranks of the unemployed.

In 2015, there were devastating blows to countless families across our province, but it was only the beginning of the pain.

In 2016, laid-off Husky employees left their worksites, carrying “packages in hand, crying and looking distressed.” In the spring, Trican chopped field staff salaries by 50 per cent in order to prevent further layoffs.

“Instead of laying off people, we’re trying to keep as many people as we can around with a reduced salary structure,” explained Trican chief executive Dale Dusterhoft. “I don’t think anyone’s happy about it but … I think they’re happy to have a job.”

This is only a sample of all the horror stories. About 100,000 oilpatch workers had lost their jobs by March of 2016.

Many more Albertans have been laid off since 2016, including the hundreds of Calgarians who packed their boxes and left Husky Energy a few weeks ago.

Dwayne, a manager in the oil industry, phoned into the Danielle Smith Show with a haunting Christmas story.

“I have to lay off 25 per cent of my workforce right before Christmas,” Dwayne revealed.

“I love my guys, but I have to lay off 25 per cent. They’re going home to tell their wives tonight that Christmas is over. We’ve taken a pay cut so we can keep as many people employed as we can and today I have to break people’s hearts.

“This is the worse day of my life.”

About a month later, the AUPE began pushing for a 7.85 per cent raise.

Albertans outside of government have taken it on the chin for many years. But instead of relief when it was needed the most, taxpayers have been forced to pay for a growing government workforce. The Alberta government added over 10,000 government employees and increased its compensation costs by $3 billion since 2014.

Thankfully, Finance Minister Travis Toews is standing up for taxpayers and is seeking wage rollbacks between two and five per cent in arbitration with government employees. It’s about time and, if anything, he should be pushing for further rollbacks.

The majority of government employees are no doubt thankful to have kept their jobs over the last few years. How many Albertans would have killed for a pay freeze or even a cut just to have kept their jobs? Most government employees probably get this, deep down. It’s more likely only those at the top of the union pyramid are pushing for the out-of-touch 7.85 per cent increase.

Instead of a pay hike, government compensation costs need to go down.

This column was originally published in the Calgary Herald on November 20, 2019.

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