Public sector wage increases granted through arbitration will likely create additional job losses, Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews said Thursday.
“There’s no provision in this budget for wage increases,” Toews told reporters at the Alberta legislature.
“Our total remuneration, total cost of public service, is a function of volume times price. So, if the price goes up we may have to look at further reductions in the public service.”
Thursday marked the first time Toews explicitly laid out what the government has been hinting to Alberta’s public sector unions.
Wage reopener talks for tens of thousands of unionized public sector workers were delayed until Oct. 31 so the government could receive the MacKinnon report and gather additional information.
This week the province indicated it would allow arbitration hearings to resume once Bill 9 expired.
On Tuesday, Toews announced a change in the government’s position. Instead of seeking zero wage increases, he said that the government would seek wage rollbacks ranging from two to five per cent depending on how much workers were paid in other comparable provinces.
In a Facebook live stream hours later, Premier Jason Kenney revealed that unions were asking for six to seven per cent salary increases. Union leaders fired back, accusing Kenney of negotiating in public.
The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) has confirmed they have asked for a six per cent salary increase for the final year of the contract.
AUPE President Guy Smith told CBC News the amount is a starting point for a bargaining position. The figure resulted after considering increases in the cost of living and two years of zero per cent wage increases