AHS employees represented by HSAA approve contract with 4.25% pay hike over 4 years

Click to play video: 'Alberta Health Services and Health Sciences Association of Alberta ratify new collective agreement'
Alberta Health Services and Health Sciences Association of Alberta ratify new collective agreement
Thousands of frontline health workers have reached a new deal with Alberta Health Services. As Ina Sidhu reports, some professionals could have seen a ten per cent rollback. – Jul 28, 2022

After a difficult bargaining process that included proposed wage rollbacks and years of delays actually getting to the table because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Health Sciences Association of Alberta announced this week its members employed by Alberta Health Services have accepted a new tentative agreement.

Of the members who voted, 85 per cent agreed to accept a tentative agreement reached in late June that includes a 4.25 per cent pay increase.

The union has been without a contract for two years, so the new agreement is retroactive to April 1, 2020, and in effect until March 31, 2024.

The contract applies to about 21,000 health-care workers, including laboratory and X-ray technologists, paramedics, respiratory therapists and more.

Click to play video: 'Alberta paramedics are overworked and exhausted: HSAA union'
Alberta paramedics are overworked and exhausted: HSAA union

“These are the people that are the integral care in the system,” said HSAA president Mike Parker.

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“Our team did an amazing job of combating some very regressive language that was coming from the government side,” Parker said, adding they weren’t negotiating with the employer AHS, but rather the ministry of health.

Parker said it was a tough fight, given wage rollbacks were initially proposed for almost half of the members.

“We were full-on negotiating with the government, who wanted 10 per cent rollbacks to our social workers and a whole myriad of other health-care professionals they deemed that needed a rollback in their current wages.

“So it’s been an uphill slog with a very difficult government that just would not recognize the sacrifice of our members on the front lines every day in health care.”

The union said it felt that, in spite of heavy government interference at the bargaining table, it achieved a number of important gains, including increases of one per cent retroactive to Oct. 1, 2021, 1.25 per cent on Sept. 1 of this year and two per cent on April 1, 2023, for all members covered by the agreement.

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The agreement included important progress on benefits and other work/life balance provisions, the HSAA said.

“This agreement isn’t great,” Parker conceded.

“Nobody’s jumping up and down happy about this, but it’s the best that we could achieve in this difficult, difficult time. And our folks just want to get back to work and do what they do best.”

Parker said Alberta is no longer an attractive place for health-care workers to come to, adding that there are hundreds of vacancies across the province right now, and that having strong contracts is key to filling voids left by professionals who have left to work elsewhere.

“We’re competing against everybody. Never mind just Canada or the States. It’s now a global competition for these experts.”

Finance Minister and Treasury Board president Jason Nixon issued a statement about the negotiations on Thursday, saying he applauded the two sides for securing a new agreement.

“HSAA members — which include respiratory therapists, lab workers, paramedics, mental health professionals and others — continue to play important roles in the health-care system and in the lives of Albertans,” Nixon said.

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“This new collective bargaining agreement provides fair compensation to these skilled and dedicated medical professionals and ensures long-term stability in our health care system.”

Click to play video: '‘These cuts are going to harm Albertans’: HSAA president on wildcat strike protesting privatization'
‘These cuts are going to harm Albertans’: HSAA president on wildcat strike protesting privatization

Parker said the HSAA will initiate the next round of bargaining in the fall of 2023.

“Let’s hope that somebody in government understands how desperate our front-lines of health care are and how critical the sacrifice was that they made to keep us all safe.”

This agreement covers approximately 20,000 of HSAA’s 29,000 members.

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