Alberta union leaders concerned Premier Jim Prentice’s 5% wage cuts will …

Alberta union leaders are concerned that a five per cent cut in provincial cabinet members’ pay — announced by Alberta Premier Jim Prentice Thursday — may affect public sector workers.

Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) president Gil McGowan confirmed Thursday that Prentice has yet to ask for wage rollbacks for its roughly 70,000 public sector employees, but says it could be “just a matter of time.”

“Almost every public sector union in Alberta currently has signed collective agreements in place — some which were ratified as recently as a month ago — and frankly we expect the premier and his government to honour those contracts,” said McGowan. “Anything else would be a slap in the face to public sector workers, and I would go as far to say as it would be illegal. A contract is a contract.”

Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) president, Guy Smith, says a collective bargaining agreement is in place for the over 22,000 members who work for front-line government services — including social workers, correctional officers, sheriffs, government administrative support staff, environmental protection officers and health and safety officers. That agreement runs through 2017.

“I’ve been in talks with our members and they’re very concerned. It’s having an impact, it’s having a really negative impact, quite honestly,” said Smith, adding that he too has not received any direct wage rollback requests from Prentice.

Smith criticizes the move by Prentice as being more about playing politics than actually trying to cut costs.

“They can reduce wages by 100 per cent and it still wouldn’t change the fact that they’re having budgetary problems because of the price of oil — it’s more about the optics of it than the reality,” said Smith.

trevor.robb@sunmedia.ca

@SunTrevorRobb

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