The province has pushed back the deadline for imposing a new contract on Alberta government workers to March 31.

The Public Service Salary Restraint Act, or Bill 46, was set to go into effect Friday if the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees failed to reach a negotiated contract settlement. 

On Thursday, cabinet approved an order in council stating that it was in the public interest to extend the negotiating period by two months. 

“We’re keen to continue the negotiations with AUPE,” said Deputy Premier Dave Hancock.

“We have a refreshed mandate to go to the table with them on it .We will have a new negotiating team at the table.”

AUPE says it is prepared to resume negotiations. But president Guy Smith says he remains skeptical.

“They gave our bargaining positions minimal consideration throughout January, and they still hold a legislated contract over our heads that they can enact on March 31,” Smith said in a news release.

On Tuesday, a temporary stay was issued on the implementation of the act to give a judge time to write a decision on AUPE’s request for an injunction.

The stay expires on Feb,14.