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Alberta nurses formally agree to new collective agreement

Click to play video: 'Kenney calls new agreement with Alberta nurses union a ‘win-win’' Kenney calls new agreement with Alberta nurses union a ‘win-win’
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney responds to news that Members of United Nurses of Alberta have ratified a new collective agreement with Alberta Health Services, Covenant Health, Lamont Health Care and The Bethany Group – Jan 27, 2022

Members of United Nurses of Alberta have ratified a new collective agreement with Alberta Health Services, Covenant Health, Lamont Health Care and The Bethany Group.

The union said the new agreement, which runs from April, 2020 to March 31, 2024, includes:

  • 4.25% pay increases over the life of the agreement.
  • Conversion of current semi-annual lump-sum payments to the wage grid.
  • One-time lump sum payment of 1% for 2021 in recognition of nurses’ contributions during the pandemic.
  • Enhanced psychological and mental health supports.
  • Creation of a union-employer provincial workload advisory committee.
  • Implementation of a Rural Capacity Investment Fund, which will allocate $5 million a year to recruitment and retention strategies in rural and remote areas of the province, and $2.5 million a year for relocation assistance.

The vote on the new contract came after “one of the most prolonged and arduous negotiations in the provincial nursing union’s 44-year history,” UNA said in a news release Thursday.

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Read more: Alberta nurses call government-proposed 3% salary rollback ‘a kick to the gut’

In January 2020, AHS negotiators tabled a four-year agreement with a zero per cent salary increase for nurses each year.

The union, which represents more than 30,000 nurses in Alberta, said this is on top of other cutbacks, like the elimination of semi-annual lump-sum payments, as well as reduced shift and weekend premiums.

UNA added that employers did return to current overtime provisions as well as transportation and education allowances.

Click to play video: 'War of words between United Nurses of Alberta and province over collective bargaining' War of words between United Nurses of Alberta and province over collective bargaining
War of words between United Nurses of Alberta and province over collective bargaining – Oct 9, 2020

At the time, Finance Minister Travis Toews commended the “invaluable role” nurses were playing in the COVID-19 pandemic but noted Alberta needs to get its finances back on track.

In August, they sought formal mediation.

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Alberta nurses one step closer to new agreement with province – Dec 22, 2021

The mediator’s recommendations included: a pay increase over the life of the four-year contract that amounts to 4.15 per cent; a one-time lump-sum payment of one per cent of 2021 “in recognition of nurses’ contribution during the pandemic” and enhanced psychological supports; creating a Rural Capacity Investment Fund, allocating $5 million a year to recruitment and retention strategies in rural areas and $2.5 million per year for relocation assistance.

“The bargaining committee felt strongly the mediator’s recommendation issued on Dec. 21 was a fair deal that will benefit our members and also fair to the people of Alberta,” UNA president Heather Smith said Jan. 27.

“I am gratified that the members agreed with the bargaining committee’s recommendation and voted by 87 per cent to ratify this agreement.”

Read more: Alberta budget 2021 targets health cost savings after COVID-19 pandemic

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“Alberta Health Services’ willingness to move away from its initial demands for wage cuts and to drop its efforts to impose more than 200 rollbacks made this agreement possible,” UNA labour relations director David Harrigan said.

The ratification vote was done online Jan. 25 and 26 and the results were counted Thursday morning.

Click to play video: 'United Nurses of Alberta seeks formal mediation in negotiations' United Nurses of Alberta seeks formal mediation in negotiations
United Nurses of Alberta seeks formal mediation in negotiations – Aug 26, 2021

Premier Jason Kenney said he was “very happy to see” that 87 per cent of UNA members voted to ratify the collective bargaining agreement with the province.

He described it as a compromise on both sides and a win-win — for nurses and for taxpayers.

“It provides for modest compensation increases, but in line with our need to be fiscally responsible,” Kenney said.

“It ensures that Alberta nurses continue to be the best compensated in Canada but at the same time, it brings their compensation closer to the national average and other provinces.”

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“We’re very happy that we could come to this agreement, which ensures continuity of service and stability amongst our critical work force of nurses.”

Read more: Thousands of Alberta Health Services jobs to be cut in effort to save $600M annually

The premier said he appreciates and values Alberta nurses.

“Let me just say how much all Albertans value and appreciate our nurses, particularly given the huge stress they’ve been working under over the past two COVID years.

“We have tremendous professionals. Many of them have taken on extra shifts, over and over and over again and many of them are struggling with burnout because of the pressure many of them have experienced in ICUs and now in emergency wards in many parts of the province.”

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announces $500M funding boost to health budget for COVID-19 crisis – Mar 15, 2020

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