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CAUT on the NB budget:

March 24, 2009

The following appeared in the CAUT NewsWire today:

New Brunswick government imposes wage freeze on public service: calls on universities to follow suit

The New Brunswick government has imposed a two-year wage freeze on public employees, and says it is cutting grants to universities so that they will follow suit.

The move was announced in the provincial budget, released by finance minister Victor Boudreau last week. The budget freezes base salaries for all non-unionized public sector management and employees. For unionized workers, the budget will freeze wages when renegotiating expired collective agreements.

The minister expects universities and municipalities, which he said, “receive significant financial support from New Brunswick taxpayers,” to “take the appropriate steps to manage their wage bills in a manner similar to the province.”

“Grants to universities and municipalities will be adjusted in future years to reflect this expectation,” said Boudreau. “It is our intent to implement the wage restraint policy through negotiation; however, if necessary, this government is prepared to introduce legislation limiting the wage increases that can be obtained through collective bargaining negotiation to zero per cent.”

While Boudreau said he’s not asking employers to break collective agreements, he added they can find “other means” to impose “restraint.”

“We are just asking them overall in their budget try to show the same type of restraint that we are showing to New Brunswickers,” he said. “How they go about that can be left up to them.”

“We’re cautiously relieved that the government’s disdain for university autonomy has not led it to legislate a pay freeze, at least not yet, likely because they recognize it would be illegal” said David Bell, president of the Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers. “But coercing university administrations into a de facto freeze is equally an attack on free collective bargaining,” he added.

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