Public Sector Wage Restraint: Minister Toews

Travis Toews, President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance, issued the following statement on the continuation of 2019 public-sector wage arbitrations:

“As promised, 2019 public-sector wage arbitrations will continue after Oct. 31 with an updated monetary mandate that reflects the reality of Alberta’s growing debt and the unacceptable deficit this government inherited.

“The revised position comes after government took the time to fully assess Alberta’s economic situation, including findings of the MacKinnon panel report, which recommended public-sector wages be brought in line with comparable provinces to correct overspending and sustain high-quality services for Albertans.

“We cannot ask Alberta taxpayers to fund public-sector pay raises during a time when far too many workers in the private sector have lost their jobs and many others have seen significant pay cuts in recent years.

“We are all in this together as Albertans. We all have to do our part to live within our means, and that includes government. Our MLAs have rolled back their salaries by five per cent and the Premier has cut his salary by 10 per cent. This is on top of five per cent cuts to MLA salaries a few years ago.

“Public-sector pay accounts for over half of government expenses, and compensation for public-sector workers in Alberta is, in most cases, significantly higher than in other comparable provinces. During better times, public-sector wages rose rapidly – far faster than inflation and population growth.  

“The revision moves from the previous position of no increase for 2019 to an average two per cent reduction for collective agreements that include a 2019 wage reopener.

“We have the highest respect and admiration for Alberta’s public-sector workers, whose dedication helps deliver so many of the vital services Albertans rely on. But we were elected to be responsible stewards of the public’s tax dollars and to get our province’s finances under control.

“Each one per cent increase of the $26.9 billion spent annually on wages means an additional $270 million cost to taxpayers, forcing a choice between higher taxes for Albertans at a time when they are facing economic uncertainty or cuts to government programs.

“The pause provided by Bill 9 gave us the clarity and information we needed to make prudent financial decisions that are in the best interests of all Albertans without continuing to pile up unnecessary and destabilizing debt. The updated arbitration mandates are based on that reality.”

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