New Brunswick·Updated

NBSO salaries jump for executives

The New Brunswick System Operator hiked salaries for several top executives over the last two years despite a government-wide move to freeze employee wages.
The NBSO disclosed its salary increases on Wednesday after days of questioning 2:33

The New Brunswick System Operator hiked salaries for several top executives over the last two years despite a government-wide move to freeze employee wages.

Executives from the NBSO, an independent government body that is supposed to ensure the reliable operation of New Brunswick's transmission system, were in front of the Energy and Utilities Board this week seeking approval of their budget for next year.

The executives had been refusing to release their individual salary figures citing privacy issues, but relented on Tuesday following two days of questioning by lawyers representing the regulatory board and the public.

The documents released Wednesday show every executive position has been granted at least one pay hike during the wage freeze from a low of 13 per cent to the organization's lawyer — who now earns $155,833 — to a high of 50.5 per cent to it's chief financial officer — who now makes $150,911.

Jean Finn, the NBSO's executive vice president, received two salary increases totaling 27 per cent during the wage freeze, according to the documents. Finn now earns $180,132 a year.

The raises were approved by the NBSO's board of directors despite a public service wide wage freeze announced by the New Brunswick government in its 2009-2010 budget.

Former finance minister Victor Boudreau told the legislative assembly in March 2009 that the base salaries for "all management and non-unionized employees" in any part of government would be frozen for two years starting April 1.

But the NBSO approved a series of executive raises in March 2010 following a reorganization and second set following receipt of an executive compensation review it commissioned from an outside consultant.

The NBSO says the pay hikes don't violate the provincial government's wage freeze policy because they flow from merit increases and job reclassifications, not cost of living increases.

Daniel Theriault, the public intervener during the regulatory hearings, said the EUB should reduce the NBSO's budget request in part because of the salary and staffing increases that he called excessive.

The EUB wound up its hearings on the NBSO's application Wednesday and will rule on it sometime in the next few weeks.