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Labour groups fighting wage cuts, warn of upcoming recession

Last Updated Oct 31, 2019 at 8:33 am MST

CALGARY (CityNews) – If nurses or hospital staff want to walk off the job, their union will have their back as they fight proposed wage cuts from the province.

It comes after the UCP government announced it will ask arbitrators to impose a 2 per cent wage cut for public sector workers.

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) calls this an attack on public workers who have had their wages frozen for the last two years.

Hospital workers, teachers and support staff will be among those impacted but labour groups believe the cuts will spill into other areas of the economy.

“When you lay off a teacher or a nurse or another public sector worker or if you cut their wages by two, three, five per cent like the government is proposing, that means you have fewer people who can spend in the economy,” said Gil McGowan, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour.

WATCH: UCP asking arbitrators to cut public sector wages

McGowan goes on to say this could lead to another recession for Alberta.

“We don’t understand why the Kenney government not only wants to make these kinds of deep cuts while the economy’s still struggling. We think it will tip us into recession if they lay off that many public sector workers and cut their wages, that’s the opposite of economic growth and job creation. ”

“This recession which the Kenney government seems hell-bent on tipping us into will be different because it will be a choice, it will be self-inflicted and we argue completely unnecessary.”

The UCP argues public sector workers will call for higher wages while other Albertans have been unemployed because of the economic downturn.

“Some of them are spouses of people who have lost jobs so they are the income,” said Susan Slade with AUPE. “They have been hit by this recession already and now to bring in further cuts and job losses and with these budgets is going to make their lives more difficult.”

Wage negotiations are scheduled to resume in December and the AUPE believe arbitrators will side with public workers.

McGowan warns if the UCP continues down the path they’re in, it’ll be more damaging than they think.

“They’re going to be in constitutional jeopardy because the Supreme Court of Canada has said very clearly that collective bargaining is a constitutionally protected right in this country and governments can’t just unilaterally use the power of the legislature to get around it.”



With files from Crystal Laderas