The United Nurses of Alberta says progress has been made in its negotiations for a new collective agreement with Alberta Health Services.
The UNA said AHS negotiators contacted the union over the long weekend to say they had a new mandate from the government to amend their bargaining proposals before formal mediation got underway.
The revised proposal from AHS to UNA includes a long-term contract for nurses, according to the provincial government. The proposal includes a wage freeze for the first three years and a modest wage increase in the fourth and fifth years of the mandate, Minister of Treasury Board and Finance Travis Toews said.
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The UNA said the final two years of the contract would see wage increases of one per cent.
“I’m pleased that AHS has issued a revised labour proposal to UNA in hopes of reaching a new collective agreement with the province’s nurses,” Toews said in a statement Wednesday morning.
“This new proposal acknowledges the hard work and dedication of Alberta’s nurses, while respecting the tough fiscal situation the province is in.”
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The UNA said it is pleased the “offensive rollbacks,” including a three-per-cent across-the-board cut to the salary appendix, have been dropped. However, the union added there are still some areas of concern.
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The AHS proposal “maintains the employer’s demand for elimination of lump-sum payments, which would cost UNA members two per cent a year in pay, and a letter of understanding that would take away important scheduling protections for nurses,” the UNA said in a bargaining update Tuesday.
“While the changes in the today’s new proposal do represent an improvement in the employer’s bargaining position, they would do nothing to address the critical problem of attrition and retention now faced by Alberta Health Services throughout the province,” the UNA said.
“Recent moves by AHS to hire contract nurses from out of province at much higher pay rates than those in UNA’s collective agreement show that the problem faced by AHS is chronic, year-round, and province-wide, not primarily experienced in rural areas or only as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and seasonal staff vacations.”
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Toews acknowledged there are still a number of items that need to be negotiated, but added he is hopeful the two sides will continue to work together to reach “a fair and reasonable deal.”
The UNA said it will meet with the mediator on Friday.
Global News has reached out to AHS for comment on the negotiations and will update this story if one is received.
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