01/29/2015 06:13 EST | Updated 03/31/2015 05:59 EDT

Premier Jim Prentice, cabinet, taking 5% wage cut

Alberta Premier Jim Prentice and members of his cabinet will take a five-per-cent cut in pay effective Feb. 1 as a way to deal with a $7-billion shorfall in government revenues. 

Prentice made the announcement in a snap news conference late Thursday afternoon.

MLA George VanderBurg, the vice-chair of the members' services committee, will bring a motion to a meeting next week asking that all MLAs take a similar five-per-cent cut in pay. 

The changes mean that Prentice's salary will drop by $10,887. The salaries of cabinet ministers and MLAs will decrease by $10,050 and $6,700 respectively. The overall savings would be about $600,000. 

"Albertans expect first and foremost there will be leadership from elected officials," the premier said.

Prentice has been signalling that he wants public sector unions to make wage concessions as a way to deal with Alberta’s $7-billion budget shortfall.

He said discussions have started with public service unions but nothing concrete is on the table. However, he said Albertans are feeling the effects of low oil prices, so everyone should be expected to help out. 

"They expect people who work for the government, whether we are elected or whether we are people who are employees, to share part of that burden," he said.

Guy Smith, president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, has said he has no interest in reopening contract talks after undergoing a tough negotiation last year. 

Alberta Teachers' Association president Mark Ramsankar said Prentice shouldn't think about asking public servant wage cuts when wealthy Albertans aren't paying their share. 

"Teachers have already done their part and took a wage freeze for three years," he said in a news release. 

"While teacher wages have been frozen, average wages in Alberta increased by over 10 per cent and the cost-of-living rose by over 5 per cent."