More than 11,500 employees at Alberta universities and colleges — including 151 Red Deer College employees — received a pay raise during lockdowns in 2020, says the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. (File photo by Advocate staff)

More than 11,500 employees at Alberta universities and colleges — including 151 Red Deer College employees — received a pay raise during lockdowns in 2020, says the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. (File photo by Advocate staff)

Taxpayer watchdog slams college and university staff pay hikes including at Red Deer College

Canadian Taxpayers Federation says post-secondary institution raises way ahead of provincial average

A taxpayer watchdog group is slamming Alberta’s universities and colleges for handing out $29 million in pay raises to staff during the pandemic.

More than 11,500 employees at Alberta universities and colleges — including 151 Red Deer College employees — received a pay raise during lockdowns in 2020, says the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

“One way for universities and colleges to help struggling taxpayers and students would be to stop handing out pay raises that we can’t afford,” said Franco Terrazzano, the agency’s federal and Alberta director.

“The government is right to look for savings at Alberta’s colleges and universities and it should push these employees to help share in the burden and take a pay cut.”

Pay raises since 2015, when the downturn in Alberta began, cost $218 million, according to documents the federation obtained from post-secondary institutions through freedom of information requests.

In 2020, Red Deer College pay raises totalled $118,472. Since 2015, pay raises have cost the college just over $4 million, says the federation.

RDC president Peter Nunoda said the college is proud of the contributions its staff make to help students achieve their goals.

“Our employees are the face of Red Deer College and important to our continued success,” said Nunoda in a statement.

“At RDC, we have worked conscientiously, and in partnership, with our unions and faculty association that represent our workforce under the direction of provincial mandates to negotiate collective agreements that are fair and that consider our stakeholders and taxpayers.

“Our employees are valued partners as we navigate these challenging times. Together, we strive to effectively serve our students and our region, while preparing for a sustainable future as a polytechnic institution.”

At Olds College, 135 employees got raises last year totalling $161,056. Since 2015, the cost of raises has been just over $1.4 million.

The federation says that since 2014 compensation for Alberta workers has fallen 10 per cent. However, compensation for post-secondary employees has increased nine per cent over the same period.

Alberta spends about $36,510 per post-secondary student, $10,000 more than other large provinces spend on average, says the federation.

“It’s not fair to force struggling families and students to pay a bigger bill so professors and bureaucrats can collect a bigger pay,” said Terrazzano.

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