Alberta revamping compensation for non-union professionals in bid to attract, retain talent
Alberta is reforming its compensation governance model for non-union public-sector employers.
The changes are designed to make the public sector more competitive and to better attract and retain skilled workers, according to Nate Horner, Minister of Finance and the president of the Treasury Board. He made the comments on Nov. 1 while introducing Bill 5, the Public Sector Employer Amendment Act.
Horner pointed to British Columbia’s model, which he called the “gold standard” for compensation governance in Canada. While Alberta already implements some of the “core elements” from the B.C. model, including co-ordinated bargaining directives, the new legislation would introduce a “flexible governance model” that also maintains strong fiscal oversight, he said.
Alberta’s public sector has been grappling with compensation challenges that date back to rates set in 2015 and 2016, which do not reflect current market conditions or inflation. The province’s inability to offer competitive and adaptive salaries has, according to Horner, caused many professionals to seek higher paying jobs elsewhere.
At the heart of the proposed act is the aim to create a “flexible compensation governance model” that would ensure both unionized and non-union public sector employees are rewarded fairly for their work.
“This legislation is long overdue and would alleviate the challenges public sector employers have been facing for years. Reducing barriers will help recruit and retain staff in the public sector,” said Horner.
The province spends close to $23 billion a year on compensation in the public sector, he said.
“Without market-based and evidence-informed oversight from the provincial government, spending pressures can easily crowd out other priorities and grow beyond government’s ability to pay,” he said.
Most of that money goes to salaries established in collective agreements with the province’s largest unions, said Horner, including nurses, teachers, and government workers.
“The current approach for non-union executive compensation is unsustainable. It doesn’t account for competitive and changing labour market conditions,” he said.
The proposed changes would target the pay structures of several entities, including Alberta Health Services, most post-secondary institutions, and various public agencies such as the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission.
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