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Government not practicing what they preach

Posted on July 30, 2014 by Taber Times

Last week, provincial government very quietly announced an end to the three-year pay freeze for the upper management by announcing three years of raises and a nice lump sum payment to boot.

I was actually starting to worry about these poor politicians and how they were going to survive the harsh Alberta winter on paltry salaries in the $280,000 range.

Folks often refer to them as fat cats, but anyone making less than $300,000 in this day and age can’t possibly be anything more than a mangy, half-starved alley cat.

Back in February of 2013, the Alberta government’s PR machine released a presser stating that a “challenging” third quarter meant the government was imposing a three-year wage freeze on management for the next three years.

This, in spite of the 2012 “reduction” in wages by eight per cent. (That wage cut was a bait-and-switch that increased the RRSP donations by taxpayers, essentially resulting in an additional $11,000 – or eight per cent – to MLA bank accounts.)

The three-year wage freeze came at exactly the time the Alberta government was going up against the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees.

The province wanted us all to see how it was leading by example in a time when fiscal restraint was needed. If they were good enough to take a pay freeze, why, everyone should.

The headline on that presser said it all: “Leading by example: Salary freeze introduced after challenging third quarter.”

The release also had this to say:

“…the Government of Alberta today introduced a three-year management salary freeze, effective April 1st, which will save taxpayers $54 million.”

They were trying to impose a four-year contract with three years of freezes followed by a one per cent increase in the final year and some small lump-sum payments. They even passed legislature to make sure they got their way. Remember Bills 45 and 46?

As a result of all that ugly fighting, the union eventually signed a deal which paid out a lump sum payment of $1,850, followed by pay increases of 6.75 per cent over the next three years.

But now the government freeze has been thawed for managers, probably as a result of global warming.

The result? A lump sum payment of $1,850, followed by pay increases of 6.75 per cent over the next three years for all senior government managers, including foreign office officials.

A deal identical to the one the government “lost” in their fight with AUPE.

That was the intention all along, says press secretary Jessica Jacobs-Mino:

“It would be unfair to not extend that same agreement to those who aren’t covered by the collective bargaining agreement.”

In their defense, 12 months is an awfully long time to go without a raise. Nobody should be expected to live through that kind of barbarity in this day and age, especially in a province as advantaged and well-off as Alberta is. Nobody, that is, except a few million private sector workers, and just about everyone else out there.

Now, your average AUPE member isn’t making over $200,000 per year in salary, and they’re nowhere near what high paid-Hong Kong rep Gary Mar makes at a whopping $560,279 (factoring in benefits and cash on top of his salary.)

But hey, you need to be fair, right? Wouldn’t want any millionaire career politicians to feel like they weren’t getting their fair share. FYI, that raise will see Mar earn an additional $19,000 by 2016.

AUPE head Guy Smith called the move “ironic”, given how their negotiations went down earlier this year:

“The irony is the same people who sat across the bargaining table from us, who tried to legislate wage freezes and strip us of our right to arbitration in Bill 46, have now taken the same wage deal they fought to keep from their own front-line staff.”

I could tell you what I’ve been calling the move  around the office, but we’re not allowed to cuss in newsprint. I’ll give you a hint, though. It comes out of the south end of a northbound bull.

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