By Terry Inigo-Jones,
A bid to cut the wages of 65,000 AUPE members has been rejected by an independent arbitrator, but the Alberta government’s reaction shows the next round of bargaining will be tougher than ever.
“After hearing evidence, the arbitrator awarded a minimal raise of one per cent – which is less than inflation – to two groups of AUPE members and ordered a wage freeze for another,” says union president Guy Smith.
“The immediate reaction from UCP Finance Minister Travis Toews was to threaten jobs and services. He claims there’s no money in the budget for raises, so Albertans must pay for the one-per-cent raise with their jobs and with the services those workers provide,” says Smith.
“Of course, the government has no problem finding money for its corporate friends. In fact, it’s finding $4.7 billion to give as tax cuts to wealthy companies. The government could pay for the one-per-cent raise 33.5 times with just one year’s corporate tax gift.”
Smith adds: “Firing Albertans is a choice. Making Albertans pay for tax cuts to wealthy corporations with their jobs and with the vital services they need is a choice. It’s abundantly clear that his government is choosing corporations over Albertans.”
The arbitrator’s decision late on Friday, Jan. 31, means one-per-cent raises for employees of the Government of Alberta (GOA) and for General Support Services (GSS) workers employed by Alberta Health Services (AHS).
The arbitrator rejected a wage rollback for members working in nursing care (ANC), but decided on a wage freeze. All three groups had already negotiated to freeze their wages for the two previous years.
You can read more detailed Member Updates here:
You can read AUPE’s media release here.
Work is already under way the next round of bargaining for our members in GoA and AHS. The current contracts expire at the end of March.
Bargaining surveys and telephone town halls are being used to identify the issues members see as priorities in the next round of bargaining, as well as how strongly members feel. Thousands of members have participated and are ready for the road ahead.
“We should be under no illusions. The next round of bargaining will be the toughest in a generation. We have already seen this government treat front-line workers with utter contempt. We’ve seen it attack the work we do and the vital services we provide,” says Smith.
On Monday. Feb. 3, the government released a report into AHS operations that recommended $1.9-billion cuts to AHS funding. Last week, AHS sought expressions of interest from for-profit operators to do 80,000 surgeries per year, despite all the evidence that private surgeries cost more and fail to shorten waiting lists.
“This government is coming after our jobs, it’s coming after our wages, it’s coming after all public services. It wants to make us, and the Albertans we proudly serve, pay for its unwarranted an unsuccessful tax cuts to corporations.
“It has just opened bargaining with the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) with a proposal for a four-year wage freeze and massive rollbacks throughout their collective agreement. This would see our colleagues on the front lines of health care suffer seven years without a raise at the same time that the government is giving $4.7 billion in tax breaks to already profitable giant corporations,” says the AUPE president.
“The government has put targets on hospital housekeeping, laundry services and food services; on lab services; on medically necessary surgeries; on seniors in care; on government services; on boards and agencies; on the justice system. Every area of public service is threatened.
“We are all under attack and we must all stand together. This time, to fight for what we deserve and what we need, we will have to be united and we will have to be prepared to fight,” says Smith.
“Our message to the government as we head in to bargaining the next round of collective agreements is that it’s time to choose Albertans, not corporations. It’s time to put people before profits.”