Alberta labour rallies against cuts

The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) has issued a rallying cry for its 155000 public sector workers to protest government cuts to their pension plans. Alberta public employees were called to gather at six locations in Calgary and 27 provincewide in order to spread information and vent their frustration with the government’s decision to change their pensions without union negotiation.

Workers have rallied repeatedly since Premier Alison Redford announced cost-saving changes to the Local Authorities Pension Plan and the Public Service Pension Plan. She backed down on some of those changes when the provincial government tabled the budget on March 6 but the AFL says the remaining changes are still unnecessary and damaging to some public employees’ quality of life after retirement.

The March rallies are focused on what AFL president Gil McGowan calls “two big lies”: that the current public pension structure is unsustainable and that public-sector workers receive significantly larger pensions than those in the private sector.

“They’re big lies that are disrespectful to workers in health care in education in law enforcement and in every part of the public service…. The facts are that public-sector worker compensation is on par with the private sector and their pensions are modest sustainable and stable” says McGowan.

Auditor general Merwan Saher also says Redford’s cuts will not improve the public pension system and recommends the government negotiate changes with unions rather than make unilateral changes.

•• CORRECTION : This story incorrectly states Alberta Auditor General Merwan Saher is opposed to the provincial government’s planned pension changes and supports government-union negotiation. That position should have been attributed to the Alberta Labour Coalition on Pensions instead. Saher has consistently recommended only that the government implement a risk management system for public sector pension plans.