On Thursday, the government went public with their renewed demand that employees accept a wage freeze. The AUPE bargaining team saw the offer as little more than an effort to buy members off with a promise of a quick $3,100 cash in hand. Here are the top ten reasons the bargaining team saw through the tactic and rejected the Government’s offer.
1) Lump-sum payments only offset a salary freeze in the short-term, while locking in massive income losses over your career. For an employee earning $64,000 the lump sum/wage freeze would result in at least $35,000 lost income over the next 10 years.
2) Wage increases of 2.5% to 3.5% per year are the trend across Alberta. AUPE has settled 6 agreements in this range since the fall, with a range of employers. Your bargaining committee doesn’t think you are worth less than any other employee in Alberta. The government’s proposal devalues your service to the province.
3) Alberta Average Weekly Earnings increased 3.6% over last 12 months, while average hourly wages increased 3.7%. Earnings are forecast to increase by approximately 3.5% in 2014 and 2015. Your bargaining committee doesn’t think you should be left behind while the economy booms.
4) While average earnings forge ahead, public sector employees fall behind. By 2016 Alberta Average Weekly Earnings are forecast to be 25.7% per cent higher than they were in 2011. Accepting the Government’s proposal would leave you almost 19% behind the Alberta average.
5) Lump-sum payments reduce your pension benefit when you retire in two ways: first, by dragging down your final average salary, which is used to calculate your benefit, and secondly, by putting more of you pension into the lower 1.4% accrual rate instead of the 2% accrual rate. With the government already attacking your pension plan, there is no reason to accept another hit on your retirement savings. These concerns are foreign to Peter Watson, who enjoys a 2% pension accrual rate on all earnings.
6) The government is far from being cash strapped. In fact, the Finance Minister just reported a $1.4 billion operating surplus the same day the government renewed demands for a two-year wage freeze.
7) While austerity is being demanded from government employees, Alison Redford’s cabinet was able to carve out a special salary for newly appointed Deputy Minister of Health Janet Davidson: $644,000 a year. Peter Watson’s total compensation meanwhile is $450,000. In fact, management salaries make up 50% per cent of the total government wage bill.
8) Technical arguments aside, you took your hit with a wage freeze in the last collective agreement. You shouldn’t have to take another.
9) The government’s own negotiators were uncomfortable with the offer they gave the bargaining committee. The first line of their offer says it all: “We have been instructed to table this offer.” In the end the government’s negotiators were just the puppets of hard-liners on the Public Sector Resource Committee like Thomas Lukaszuk, Doug Horner, David Hancock, Robin Campbell, Dwight Dibben and Peter Watson.
10) The government’s offer would never stand up to the scrutiny of an independent, third-party arbitrator. The lump-sum payments are a desperate attempt by the government to avoid being embarrassed in compulsory arbitration.
The union is not interested in accepting an offer that doesn’t address the above concerns. There is a forum for final settlement of these issues in compulsory arbitration. The alternative is for the government to get serious about salaries at the bargaining table.