Alberta Politics
Alberta Union of Provincial Employees President Guy Smith (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Alberta government makes moves to lay off more public employees — this time provincial public service members

Posted on March 30, 2020, 3:15 pm
4 mins

No one should assume Saturday’s mass layoff of 26,000 substitute teachers, teaching assistants and non-essential support staff at schools throughout Alberta is the last such action planned by the United Conservative Party Government as it attempts to game federal pandemic supports.

In a bargaining update published this morning by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, the 95,000-member public-sector union told its members employed directly by the province that the Kenney Government’s negotiators have refused to consider agreeing to suspend job cuts until the COVID-19 crisis had passed.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The update on the state of negotiations for a new collective agreement for the union’s 23,000-member government services bargaining unit began: “Your negotiations team met with the employer on Tuesday, March 24. We had one issue to discuss: Can bargaining and jobs cuts be suspended until the COVID-19 crisis has passed?

“Late on Friday, March 27, we got our answer: No. The government refused to halt jobs cuts, but did say bargaining could be delayed.”

A letter of understanding agreeing there would be no loss of employment for permanent employees in AUPE’s government services bargaining unit for the life of the collective agreement expires today.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“We have been told that some members will start to lose their jobs as early as this week,” the union update warned. “The government has not provided details on which people would be cut in which areas or when, despite repeated requests.”

Negotiators for Alberta Health Services agreed to extend a similar letter of understanding with United Nurses of Alberta on March 17.

“Just when Albertans are facing unbelievable financial stress and are turning to their government for assistance, they’re going to find that those support systems are being threatened,” said AUPE President Guy Smith in a news release.

“Faced with the double whammy of the pandemic and turmoil in the oil industry, it should be all hands on deck. Unfortunately, Premier Jason Kenney has chosen to throw Albertans overboard instead.”

These job cuts are expected to be permanent, Mr. Smith noted, not temporary as is supposedly the case with the 26,000 school board employees whose layoffs were announced on Saturday, two weeks after the same government promised to maintain school funding until the end of the school year despite the closing of the province’s schools.

“Albertans are hurting like they have never hurt before,” Mr. Smith said. “They need stability now. Throwing more Albertans out of work is senseless.”

The obvious inference from the government’s rejection of AUPE’s request is that the UCP plans to lay off civil servants and offload the costs of the firings onto federal supports as well, thereby transferring debt obligations from the province to Ottawa.

In Ottawa yesterday, Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned that there would be “serious consequences” for businesses that attempt to game the federal government’s 75-per-cent wage subsidy program.

“We are trusting you to do the right thing,” he said. “If you have the means to pay the remaining 25 per cent that is not covered by the subsidy, do it. And if you think this is a system you can game or take advantage of, don’t.”

Unfortunately, there is not much the federal government can do about Conservative-run provincial governments like Alberta’s that try to game federal supports to pay the high costs of their ideological programs and facilitate accounting sleights of hand to gain political advantage.

12 Comments to: Alberta government makes moves to lay off more public employees — this time provincial public service members

  1. Expat Albertan

    March 30th, 2020

    Well, one consequence is that a whole lot of Albertans are going to learn that a Liberal government is going to save their bacon when a conservative government fired them during an historic pandemic. Another thing they will learn is that a federal government is more reliable and caring than a provincial one. Hope some who learn this lesson are wexiters (or wexit adjacent).

    • lost in the colonies

      March 30th, 2020

      Albertans are gunna learn . . . sad to say

      don’t hold your breath

    • tom in ontario

      March 30th, 2020

      Speaking of wexiters, why nothing from Kenney’s Ottawa hating buddies? Must be covering their heads deep in their hidey holes.

  2. Hana Razga

    March 30th, 2020

    Terrible! There is nothing honourable about Jason Kenney and his UCP government. Shame shame shame on all of them.

  3. alan

    March 30th, 2020

    Some individuals still think that Alberta is fortunate to have so much inscrutable Special K all to itself:

    “Take all the government programs you want. None of them replace the value of a job. The greatest social program is employment.”

    The ‘enigma’ obviously means private sector employment, because we have all been told that government is bad; except, when you are throwing a tantrum and begging for more spare change from Ottawa.

    If you elect a phony, “modest level of human capital” as your leader, you indeed, get what you deserve. Well done!

  4. Just Me

    March 30th, 2020

    It’s clear that the UCP are trying to game the system by layoff approx 50,000 public employees onto the federal EI system. It’s so obvious right now, even Postmedia can’t keep their mouths shut about it anymore. Even professional Kenney fluffer, Don Braid was close to calling the UCP insane. I’m willing to go out on the limit and say that if Braid has admitted that, then others in Alberta are thinking the same thing.

    Kenney is so desperate to make Moody’s happy, is it determined to break any chance of peace between Alberta and Ottawa.

    Ottawa’s position on this obvious effort to game their system requires a severe response. The immediate suspension of TMX contruction will send a message. Of course, Kenney can throw another tantrum and declare Ottawa hates Alberta. At that point, Chyrstia Freeland must speak up and call out Kenney for what he is doing. Call him a coward and a lunatic, pure and simple.

    Then put Alberta at the back of the line when it comes to federal government support for COVID-19, and denounce angry dwarf Kenney again.

    If there is another first minister meeting, deny Kenny access to the meeting. He is a disgrace and he’s not allowed in.

    Agree to Brian Pallister’s proposal for a low-credit fund for the provinces — but shove Alberta to the back of the line. Maybe there will be something left for them.

    Time for Ottawa to play hardball with Kenney. I’d even put him on the no-fly list and keep him cornered in Alberta.

    The angry midget can squawk and scream all he wants — maybe he’ll even say Alberta should be independent.

    Go ahead and take Alberta out — and let the door hit you in the arse on the way out.

    Oh, and you’ll be landlocked. And you can try to join the US, but we’ll see how that goes with everyone in Alberta.

    Maybe there will be a mass exodus from the province because the premier is nuts and too insane to be around.

    It used to be that B.C. got all the nuts in politics. Not anymore.

  5. David

    March 30th, 2020

    I wonder how many true believers in the conservatives will remain so at the next election?

    Prentice hit them before calling an election and paid for it.

    Kenney waited until a election put him in power. Will he lose at next election?

  6. Sam Gunsch

    March 30th, 2020

    Kenney-UCP/Harper is pure cult-grade neoliberalism (market fundamentalism),
    anti-government/public sector, taxes-are-theft, we’re going to privatize your public services
    until you all buy private services b/c there ain’t much public services left…
    dogma of worldwide RWrs since Thatcher.

    And imho, AB’s hard-right still retains a lot Social Darwinism political DNA, imho, having lived here all my life.

    Alex Himelfarb wrote a tight summary of this religion-like political agenda in 2012…
    he still nails it, and Kenney’s corporate tax cuts from 1`2% to 8% are perfectly fitting:

    EXCERPT: ”Today’s austerity, however, is not primarily about fiscal

    prudence. If it were it wouldn’t be proceeding in tandem with large, unaffordable

    and unnecessary tax cuts for the most affluent among us. These tax cuts make

    deeper program cuts inevitable.

    The persistent emphasis on low taxes and cuts to services and public goods looks

    more like ideology masquerading as fiscal common sense. In this light, austerity

    seems rather to be about cutting back the state and rolling out the free market

    agenda. Less public, more private; less collective, more individual. It is, in other

    words, the fulfillment of the neoliberal counter-revolution rather than an economic

    plan for the future.”

  7. anon

    March 30th, 2020

    Nothing to be done by the Feds? Utter nonsense. Kenney and the UCP are obviously gaming the system in an unscrupulous effort to shift costs to Ottawa. Prime Minister Trudeau has a duty to protect Canadian citizens trapped in Alberta and to protect their medical system from the obvious social violence and sabotage the Kenney UCP are now engaged in. His father knew what to do in Quebec in 1970 and Kenney has left the PM no choice.

  8. Murphy

    March 31st, 2020

    It’s war on public servants at every level. The City of Calgary laid off 1300 staff yesterday. The “media” claimed that they were temporary lay-offs, and everyone will come back after the plague passes over. I have two close relatives who were lifeguards with seniority until yesterday. Their termination notices state very specifically that they will be offered swim instructing jobs if pools re-open within the year. The City has been busy trying to eliminate careers in aquatics for a number of years. All new positions involved halving the hours of an old position so that only a tiny fraction of senior attendants could become full-time workers. The eventual move will be to privatize the whole shebang. 3P rip-offs via the YMCA will fill the void, but some really awesome companies and individuals will get to put their names on the buildings, just like aristocrats in the Edwardian times.

    • jerrymacgp

      April 1st, 2020

      Let’s all not be too hard on our cities & towns… virtually all of them are doing, or going to be doing, layoffs. Remember, unlike the provincial & federal governments, municipal governments are prohibited from running deficits. With municipal facilities like pools, rec centres, public parks & playgrounds, etc. all shut down indefinitely, there is little for many of them to do, and given they’ll probably also going to have to extend property tax holidays to homeowners and businesses, their revenue stream is also undoubtedly going to dry up. At least if they’re unionized, as many are, they’ll have recall rights when it’s all over.

  9. Barry Franklin

    March 31st, 2020

    Kenney hands $4.7 BILLION to Big Oil….crashes his province…and expects Trudeau to take the blame.
    Sorry folks. YOU elected Kenney. You are stuck with him.


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