Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says political staff have taken 7 per cent pay cut

AIRDRIE, Alta. — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says his government's political staffers have taken a seven per cent pay cut and he's using that as a warning to the province's public-sector unions.

A number of collective agreements were to be negotiated earlier this year but were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Kenney said the seven per cent rollback includes staff working in ministers' offices. He said members of the legislature are making 10 per cent less than they were five years ago and his salary has dropped by 15 per cent.  

"We are facing a great fiscal reckoning as a province and we're going to have to find ways to reduce the cost of government," Kenney said at an announcement in Airdrie, Alta., on Thursday.

"The COVID global recession has cost us 25 per cent of our revenues and we've now got a deficit of over $24 billion. We're going to ask everybody to make sacrifices so that we can live within our means in the future."

The government of Alberta's website shows a number of expired agreements between the province and several unions, including the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, the Health Sciences Association of Alberta and the United Nurses of Alberta.

Kenney said hundreds of thousands of families who rely on private-sector jobs are making do with less because the pandemic and a crash in oil prices have led to huge job losses.

"We probably have a real unemployment rate of 15 per cent, but that masks the reality of the hundreds of thousands of private-sector families who are making do with less, who have seen huge cuts in their income," Kenney said.

"We expect everyone to play a part in helping to get our finances back on track."

He said everyone will need to make sacrifices so the province can live within its means.

The president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees said Kenney's comments do not come as a surprise. Guy Smith said Kenney and the UCP government have made it clear from the beginning what they planned to do.

"We know what the employers position is at the bargaining table. No wage increases at all and in fact a wage rollback of one per cent for the first year," Smith said.

"It doesn't surprise me at all that they're working for wage cuts across the board."

Smith said in addition to wage rollbacks there have been demands for other cuts in compensation as well.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published October 15, 2020.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press