Today, the United Nurses of Alberta held a protest at my MLA constituency office.
Protests should be honest; without disingenuous distortions of facts, or attacks on persons instead of policies where genuine differences of opinion may exist.
In the recent salary arbitration, the union asked for a three per cent increase. The independent arbitrator stated “no change in wage rates is justified … particularly given the prevailing general economic conditions in the province.”
The arbitrator was right. Out of government, Alberta businesses and families must limit spending to their incomes; in government, public sector salaries should respect taxpayers and not impose structural billion-dollar debts and deficits upon our children. That is in the public interest.
In the recent MacKinnon Report and supporting documents, there is a comparison of registered nurse compensation to other provinces.
Alberta nurse compensation is significantly higher than the report’s comparator provinces: B.C., Ontario and Quebec. The report is available to all Albertans for viewing at: www.alberta.ca/mackinnon-report-on-finances.aspx
The report also identifies that Alberta nurses receive taxpayer funded benefits more generous than comparator provinces, and certainly not available in the private sector.
As an example, I received a letter from a nurse describing how some union members may be choosing to work part time hours in order to leverage automatic double time pay once their part time, not full time, hours were exceeded, or with work falling on designated days of rest or “X days.”
The concerned taxpayer stated ours is “a system ripe for abuse”.
The union appears to disagree with our government taking steps to confront outlier benefits or restrain salaries which exceed provincial counterparts.
Our government was elected to restore fiscal accountability and sustainability in the face of structural billion-dollar government deficits.
On the strength of the report, our focus is on reducing the cost of services, as opposed to the services themselves.
We would invite all nurses, including our nurses in central Alberta, to ensure their union avoids taking unreasonable positions which disrespect taxpayers or undermine a sustainable health care system.
That is in the public interest.
Jason Stephan is United Conservative Party MLA for Red Deer-South.