A move by the Alberta government to freeze civil service management pay for three years and cut its ranks 10 per cent is welcomed by Red Deer’s Chamber of Commerce president.
“Government should have done this a long time ago,” said Gayle Langford.
“It’s no different than late 2008 when a lot of businesses around here hit hard times and they looked inward for savings. They made some really difficult decisions.”
The lawyer who was once a provincial health care manager said cost cutting shouldn’t stop there.
“I hope they look at the inefficiencies in departments and see whether there are some cost savings.”
Finance Minister Doug Horner announced the austerity measures on Tuesday after his quarterly fiscal report revealed the province faces a $3.5-billion to $4-billion deficit. He brings down the provincial budget on March 7.
The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees collective agreement signed in 2011 got full-time employees $1,750 lump-sum payments with prorated payments for part-time and wage employees, followed by $1,250 lump-sum payments paid in January last year. Workers also received four per cent pay increases last April. The agreement runs out March 31.
Dr. Chris Eagle, president and CEO of Alberta Health Services, said examining management and staff pay is part of its 2013-14 budget process and a recommendation will be made to the AHS board on March 14.
“Although no decisions have been made, we need to realistically face Alberta’s economic challenges and our responsibility to be part of the solutions,” he said in a statement.
“Leaders across the organization in all operational areas are developing strategies to contain cost while delivering high quality patient care.”
AUPE president Guy Smith questioned “the wisdom of freezing wages, cutting public sector jobs, and reducing services at the same time demand is increasing.
“Government staffing levels haven’t increased since the mid-1990s, while the province has added a million people. Employees are stretched as it is.”