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17 Below: Can we afford another drop and a deep freeze?

GOA members say No in the latest AUPE survey, but the battle is not just about wages

Mar 29, 2021

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A cold wind is blowing in from the top bosses’ offices. After already axing hundreds of public-sector jobs, the Government of Alberta wants to slash the wages of its frontline staff by 4% in the coming year, followed by a three-year freeze. Factor in all the environmental conditions – inflation and two years of zeros in 2017/18– it’s devastating. Since 2017, your ability to pay for basic necessities is forecast to drop by approximately 17%.

Anyone who’s lived through a harsh Alberta winter, or, for that matter, a global pandemic on top of collapsing oil prices, knows that numbers matter. The difference between -20° and -35° is needing an extra layer and suffering frostbite no matter what you wear. The difference between 40 active cases and 100 is a functioning hospital and an ICU on the verge of collapse. And the difference between a 4% wage drop in one year and a 17% wage drop over 5 years is catastrophic for working people and their families, especially when we factor in a pandemic.

According to AUPE’s latest survey, almost a quarter of GOA respondents lost income because of COVID. For about 34% of you, the amount lost was significant – between 5,000 and 10,000 dollars! GOA members living in rural Alberta, where 80% of those whose household had a COVID diagnosis say the diagnosis wounded them financially, suffered even more. These losses during the pandemic have inflicted serious damage on many of you: 

  • 10% of you in rural Alberta fell behind on your mortgage 
  • 18% of you, across Alberta, fell behind on your rent 
  • 19% of you had to buy less medicine (at the same time the government has cut coverage for some drugs) 
  • 40% of you had to buy less food 
  • 45% of you are paying more to support your dependents than you did in 2019 

To top it off, almost 20% of you are now the sole breadwinners in your home, supporting multiple loved ones with a single pay cheque. 

Every employer decision about your compensation – your wages, benefits and pension – doesn’t just affect you; it affects your communities. About half of you had dependents in 2020, and almost 40% of you financially support a friend or family member when they lost income because of the pandemic. As AUPE members, you’re the backbone of Alberta in multiple ways! 

Of course, not every one of you is in the same positions as your coworkers. Some of you might even think, “I could scrape by with less cash.” But the truth is that no one can afford this government messing with their money.

Why? Because no matter how many zeros you see behind the number in your bank account, your battle at the table is bigger. It’s about the UCP trying to demolish livelihoods. What you built in 40 years, Kenney thinks he can sledgehammer in four – but he can’t swagger down destruction road with 20,000 of you standing in his way.

Back in the 1980s, direct government staff barely scraped by; if it hadn’t been for the province’s robust social housing program, many members, especially in rural Alberta, probably would been homeless. AUPE members solved that problem. Regardless of who was in power, they remained loyal to each other and their communities. They fought for job security, better wages, strong pensions, and now you’re using your union power to protect and build on this foundation.  

Because your bosses are politicians, they’ll come, and they’ll go. They’ll serve their term and try to re-make the province in their image. But you’re constantcommitted to the public services you provide rather than a self-serving ideology. And that’s what makes you stronger. That’s what makes you the best defense against the UCP as a boss and a government. You’ve withstood storms before, including the privatization ploys of Klein, as well as the NDP hypocrisy. This current storm will require even more organizing, and only you can do that. Talk with each other and become a worksite contact. Reach out to your Organizers to find out what next steps you can take at

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Only you can organize your fellow workers. Contact AUPE staff and learn how.

AUPE staff contact


The Organizing department assists members with bargaining, mobilization, political campaigns and engagement--contact if you're interested in joining AUPE.

Phone 780-930-3300

Toll-free phone 1-800-232-7284

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