Toews calls proposed cuts to health-care workers' salaries 'reasonable'

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Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews is defending a proposal to cut the salaries of health-care staff, including cleaning, laundry and lab workers, saying it is reasonable and in the best interest of Albertans.

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On Thursday, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) said the government was proposing a four per cent wage cut for its general support services workers effective immediately after a new agreement is ratified, followed by a three-year wage freeze.

In a statement Friday, Toews said the government has to keep spending under control when the province is facing $93 million in debt. He said Albertans pay more than most Canadians for public services including health care.

“Our proposal is fair, reasonable, and in the best interest of all Albertans. AHS is offering job security to employees in exchange for the one-time wage reduction. This is a fair and equitable trade,” he said.

“AHS is meeting with AUPE later today to continue negotiations. I’m confident both parties can work together to reach a fair and equitable settlement that respects the fiscal situation of the province.”

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AUPE vice president Susan Slade confirmed in an interview Friday that the union’s current proposal would maintain the status quo during year one followed by a 2.5 per cent salary increase in each of years two and three.

AHS initially proposed a one-per cent cut in February 2020 but contract talks were stalled amid the pandemic.

Slade the one per cent cut would have taken back an increase received through arbitration and that there have been very little increases in these employees’ salaries the last five years.

“Nobody’s being unreasonable. I think given the fact that these employees have been working for the last 16 months in horrible conditions given the pandemic him asking for a four per cent decrease is extremely shameful, disrespectful and unreasonable,” she said.

More to come

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