Minister vows salary overhaul for Alberta PSE institutions

April 30, 2013

Alberta Advanced Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk is promising to overhaul compensation for PSE administrators as opposition parties criticize what they say is a golden handshake for recently retired SAIT Polytechnic president Irene Lewis. She retired last month but will continue to collect her salary -- up to $340,00 -- over the next year. Lewis was given a contract extension last fall to cover the period until her successor, David Ross, was able to replace her. That extension retained a clause from the old contract granting a year's salary upon Lewis' departure, a provision that has drawn heavy criticism from faculty and staff unions. Lukaszuk says he is disappointed to see the payout, given the province's call for restraint in the PSE sector. The minister says he has "made very clear that I will be opening the legislation for post-secondary education this fall and the manner in which we set salaries and remunerate individuals in that sector needs to be one of the things that we review for certain." Lukaszuk has not said whether that would mean stricter guidelines regarding compensation, but he wants to ensure salaries are in line with other public servants. He says he does not take issue with SAIT's contention that the contract provision is standard in Alberta. A SAIT spokeswoman says the clause was always part of Lewis' contract. A Wildrose MLA says Lukaszuk should step in to try to reverse the contract payout, which comes as the PSE sector faces steep budget cuts. The minister says he cannot make changes to the contract in this situation. Calgary Herald