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Unions tell Prentice to stay away from their contracts

It won’t solve the fiscal problem the province is expected to face, but Alberta Premier Jim Prentice said he and his cabinet are taking a five per cent wage cut effective immediately.

Prentice also said there will be a motion next week asking all members of the legislature to follow suit, which would lead to savings of $600,000.

He explained the discussions about saving money will involve everyone paid by the citizens of Alberta and discussions have started with public service unions, but the unions aren’t buying in.

Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan told City News it’s nothing more than scapegoating and blaming people who had no part in creating the problems.

“He’s blaming public sector workers and the services that they deliver when in reality the reason we’re having a budget crisis now is because of corporate tax giveaways and royalty giveaways, that created the problem,” he said. “That problem was not created by how much we spend on public services which frankly, is middle of the pack compared to other provinces and it wasn’t created by public sector wages.”

Alberta Union of Public Employees President Guy Smith said public sector rollbacks won’t amount to any real financial relief.

“We have a collective agreement in place for our members who work front lines in government services and that collective agreement was very difficult to get in the first place and it’s in place until 2017 and we’re not interested in opening it up or looking at rollbacks.” he explained, adding this announcement is just about political optics, not about fiscal management.

“At the end of the day, if there were rollbacks, it won’t make any difference anyway,” said Smith. “It’s such a small amount of the provincial budget that would be impacted by rollbacks it doesn’t make fiscal sense anyway.”

The unions said they didn’t look for more money when things were good, so Prentice shouldn’t be coming to them now that things are bad.

Mount Royal University Policy Studies Chair Duane Bratt said we’ve seen this before.

“This is exactly how the scenario played out in 1993, the Klein government took a five per cent rollback and then got the public sector to do a similar one,” he explained.