A two-year freeze that temporarily halted cost of living adjustments to MLAs’ salaries is set to expire next year.
MLAs passed a bill in March 2016 that froze their salaries and benefits at 2015 levels for the years 2016 and 2017.
The legislative assembly’s board of management was informed during a recent meeting on Sept. 27 that the bill is set to run its course next April, when MLA salaries will once again be adjusted for inflation, according to a news release from the legislative assembly.
However, that could change.
“If in February of next year or anytime before April 1 the legislature … wishes to enact new legislation to continue with the wage freeze, it can do that,” said Tim Mercer, clerk of the legislative assembly. “But the purpose of the meeting last week was not to seek direction from them on that. It was simply to give them a reminder and a briefing on the fact the legislation only affects the years (2016) and 2017.”
According to Mercer, the decision to impose the salary freeze was made because of tough economic times.
Addressing media reports this week, he said the decision is completely unrelated to collective bargaining with the Union of Northern Workers (UNW), who have been in negotiations over a new contract for government employees for nearly two years,
However, UNW president Todd Parsons said this week’s announcement about the salary freeze ending gives the “perception” MLAs are more concerned about their own well-being than the well-being of the public service.
“It’s the members of the legislative assembly that enact laws on behalf of the residents of the Northwest Territories,” said Parsons. “I’d prefer to see the legislative assembly pass legislation that would see cost of living increases for all the public service, not just MLAs.”
In a statement made Tuesday on social media, Kam Lake MLA Kieron Testart stated MLAs have not made a decision on the pay freeze yet.
He added MLAs would be briefed on the status of UNW and GNWT negotiations in the coming weeks.
“It is not the time for me to comment on this process yet but rest assured I believe that public servants deserve fair treatment and that our government should be looking to invest in the future of the public service,” wrote Testart.
Yellowknife North MLA Cory Vanthuyne, who sits on the board of management, declined to comment.
MLAs make an annually salary of $103, 851, according to the legislative assembly’s website. Those who have extra responsibilities in addition to being an MLA, such as the speaker or premier, receive extra compensation.