Premier Brad Wall announced plans Tuesday to cut public sector compensation by 3.5 per cent, calling it a “target” that’s “not subject to change.”
The measure should save about $250 million in government expenses, the premier said during a news conference in the Legislature.
“We’re not negotiating the target,” he said. “We’ve set it. We want to achieve 3.5 per cent worth of savings. And now we want to allow the collective bargaining process to work its way through to achieving that target.”
Wall denied that the announcement amounts to an ultimatum. He refused to shield any part of the public sector from the prospect of cuts, including healthcare workers or employees at Crown corporations.
“I don’t think we’re going to rule anything out,” he said.
The exact form of the cuts, whether in salary rollbacks, furloughs or unpaid days off, will be up for negotiation as public sector contracts go to the bargaining table. Wall told reporters that the government won’t impose cuts “retroactively” on workers with existing contracts, but said that he’s aiming to achieve the target within the next year.
The premier also announced that MLAs and political staffers will “lead by example,” accepting a similar pay cut of 3.5 per cent effective April 1st.
“I hope folks in the province will realize that we’re not asking anyone to do anything that we’re not prepared to do as elected people,” he said.
Opposition leader Trent Wotherspoon said that the NDP will accept a pay cut for MLAs, but warned Wall not to take that as “permission” to move forward with public sector cuts.
“We’re going to fight him tooth and nail with the kind of cuts he’s contemplating,” Wotherspoon said.
For more on this story, see the March 8 print or e-edition of the Daily Herald.