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Labour legislation aims to restart negotiations with union

In an effort to reach a negotiated settlement with the union representing government workers, the Alberta government has introduced Bill 46, the Public Service Salary Restraint Act.

The Bill provides a framework in which government and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) can negotiate a fair agreement that fits within the government’s fiscal restraint policy, consistent with agreements reached this year with Alberta’s doctors and teachers. Budget 2013 targeted an overall operating spending increase of zero per cent in 2013/14 to help reach a balanced budget.

"We want to get back to the bargaining table with AUPE so we can reach an agreement that is fair to our hard-working public servants and fair to taxpayers. AUPE walked away from the table, but legislating an agreement is not our preferred approach. We’ve made a fair offer that recognizes restraint our employees have already taken, provides a modest wage increase, and ensures we meet our commitment to taxpayers to hold the line on spending. It’s time to get back to the negotiating table."

Doug Horner, President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance

A key part of the Building Alberta Plan is ensuring government continues to live within its means while focusing spending on the services Albertans rely on.

“Decisions that directly impact the spending of taxpayer dollars – and our ability to pay for the services Albertans rely upon, need to be made by government. That’s why we want to negotiate a long-term agreement that continues to be fair to workers and allows us to meet our commitment to taxpayers – just like we did with our doctors and teachers.”

Doug Horner, President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance

The Bill includes:

  • a clear timeline in which to negotiate a new collective agreement with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees; and
  • a wage settlement that will automatically take effect over a four year term if a new agreement is not reached by January 31, 2014 of:
    • 0% for 2013/14;
    • 0% for 2014/15 but with lump sum payment of $875 for each eligible employee;
    • 1% for 2015/16; and
    • 1% for 2016/17

Public sector salaries make up roughly half of government’s total operating budget each year, including doctors and nurses, teachers and post-secondary faculty, and the employees of Alberta’s Public Service. The Alberta government was successful in negotiating agreements with doctors and teachers that hold wages flat for three years and ensure stability in these sectors. MLAs are also setting an example by proposing an additional three-year wage freeze on their own salaries.

The collective agreement between the Alberta government and AUPE expired on March 31, 2013. The government and AUPE negotiated for 12 days before AUPE walked away from the table. Mediation was held and no resolution could be reached. AUPE has applied for binding arbitration – a step they have not taken in more than 30 years.

Under the Building Alberta Plan, our government is investing in families and communities, living within our means, and opening new markets for Alberta's resources to ensure we're able to fund the services Albertans told us matter most to them. We will continue to deliver the responsible change Albertans voted for.

Backgrounder

Fact Sheet: Public Service Salary Restraint Act – Bill 46

The Public Service Salary Restraint Act provides a framework in which the Government of Alberta and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) can negotiate a new collective agreement that fits within the government’s fiscal restraint policy.

  • Bill 46 sets a clear timeline for reaching a new collective agreement, of January 31, 2014.  That deadline can be extended, by Cabinet, to March 31, 2014.
  • If a new agreement is not reached by January 31st, the Bill will extend the existing collective agreement for a four-year period – from April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2017.
  • The legislation recognizes wage restraint already taken by employees and provides for pay increases of 0% in year 1 and 2, and 1% in each of years 3 and 4.
  • Additionally, in the second year, employees would be eligible for a lump sum payment of $875. 
  • The legislation ends the arbitration board that was set up under the Public Service Employee Relations Act and provides an alternate framework for settling the terms of a collective agreement between the Government of Alberta and AUPE.
  • Bill 46 applies to the settlement of this particular AUPE agreement. It does not apply to future AUPE agreements, or to agreements relating to any other unions.

Who Does This Legislation Cover?

  • The Bill applies to bargaining unit employees within the Alberta Public Service (APS) represented by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE).
  • There are approximately 21,642 employee members of the AUPE within the APS including those members who work in frontline and program delivery such as public security, child and family services, and administrative support.
  • Roughly 76% of the Alberta Public Service are bargaining unit employees.
  • The Alberta Public Service includes government departments but does not include broader public sector employers such as schools, universities, colleges and hospitals. 

Collective Bargaining Background:

  • The current collective agreement expired March 31, 2013.
  • The parties negotiated for a total of 12 days, after which time the AUPE concluded the discussions had reached an impasse and applied for mediation.
  • Mediation took place on July 3 and 4, 2013 at which point the mediator determined the likelihood of resolution was remote and concluded the process.
  • The AUPE applied to the Labour Relations Board on July 15th requesting a compulsory arbitration board be established.

New Offer

  • On Friday, November 22, 2013 a revised monetary offer was presented to the AUPE.
  • The offer included a four year agreement starting in the current year, that provides for a salary increase of 0%, 0%, 1%, 1% with an $875 lump sum payment in year two (2014/15) to all eligible employees.
  • Part-time Salaried and Wage Employees are eligible for a prorated amount.
  • The $875 one-time lump sum payment equates to 1.38% of the average base salary of bargaining unit employees.  Part-time Salaried and Wage Employees are eligible for a prorated amount.
  • As an example, a full-time Mail and Photocopier Assistant receiving the $875 lump sum payment is receiving 2.7% of their annual salary. 
  • Other items that remain in the offer for further negotiation include vacation entitlement and Christmas closure which would see employees receive extra  paid days off during the holidays :
    • 4 days in 2013 (December 23, 24, 30 and 31)
    • 3 days in 2014 (December 29, 30 and 31)
    • 3 days in 2015 (December 29, 30 and 31)
    • 2 days in 2016 (December 29 and 30)

Cost of wage settlement in Public Service Salary Restraint Act:

Year 1 – no cost

Year 2  - $19 million – One Time Lump Sum Payment

Year 3 - $16.4 million

Year 4 - $16.6 million

Total: $52 million over four years

Historical Salary Increases – APS Union Employees

2012 – 4%

2011 – 0% with a $1,250 lump sum

2010 – 0% with a $1,750 lump sum

2009 – 4.3%

2008 – 4.8%

2007 – 4.9% with a $1,500 lump sum

2006 – 3.0%

2005 – 3.0%

2004 – 3.9%

2003 – 3.5%

Annual Alberta Public Service Payroll (base salary and benefits):

APS Union, Bargaining Unit – $1.63 billion (21,642 employees)

APS Non-Union, Opted-Out & Excluded and Exempt - $206.5 million (2,212 employees)

APS Non-Union, Management - $696 million (4,756 employees)


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