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Taxpayers Federation: Toews needs to be tougher in labour negotiations

February 07, 2020
Taxpayers Federation: Toews needs to be tougher in labour negotiations

CALGARY, ABThe Canadian Taxpayers Federation is calling on Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews to push further during on-going labour negotiations with government unions.

“Finance Minister Travis Toews needs to be a lot tougher during negotiations with government union bosses if he wants to show he’s taking Alberta’s $70 billion debt problem seriously,” said Franco Terrazzano, Alberta Director for the CTF. “In the ‘90s, Alberta’s debt was about $20 billion and government employees saw five per cent cuts, but right now Toews is mainly pushing for wage freezes, that’s not good enough.”

The government of Alberta is pushing for a one per cent wage reduction followed by three years of wage freezes in its negotiations with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees. In its negotiations with the United Nurses of Alberta, the government's opening proposal was a four year pay freeze. During both negotiations the government is seeking reductions in benefits.

“Albertans outside of the government have been taking it on the chin for years and all the while paying for generous perks and salaries for government employees,” said Terrazzano. “It’s time to take some air out of the ballooning government labour costs and that means Toews needs to push for bigger cuts.”

The CTF recently released freedom of information requests that show the compensation for Alberta government employees is out of line with provincial counterparts. The CTF received government data for 81 government occupations and 74 of them receive higher compensation (salaries and benefits) in Alberta than the average of other provinces examined (British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario). More than 56 per cent of the Alberta government occupations receive over $10,000 more than the average in the other provinces.

According to freedom of information requests obtained by the CTF, taxpayers are also paying for unreasonable benefits for UNA nurses, including second pensions, over-time pay for employees who haven’t worked full-time hours and bonuses that aren’t related to performance.

The Alberta government’s debt has passed the $70-billion mark. Government compensation costs have increased by $3 billion and more than 10,000 employees have been added since 2014. The government’s debt peaked at $22.7 billion in the 1990s when government employees received five per cent wage cuts.

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