Union representing Alberta nurses reaches tentative collective agreement with AHS

Thousands of Alberta nurses will get a pay raise if they ratify a proposed set of recommendations for a new collective agreement with Alberta Health Services (AHS). 

A mediator has recommended United Nurses of Alberta and AHS agree to a pay increase of 4.25 per cent over a four-year term.

“I think many nurses have felt disregarded and insulted by the government and employers over the last two years,” UNA president Heather Smith said Thursday in an interview. “Hopefully this settlement brings some relief.”

The recommendations from the mediator follow lengthy negotiations that saw AHS seek wage rollbacks and nurses warn that a strike would be considered.

Smith said she believes the conditions and pressures created by the pandemic were what brought AHS around. 

“It has been a horrible, horrible time for nurses and other health-care workers in this province,” she said.

“We’ve got Omicron now, everybody is gearing up again. But at least we’re not faced with potentially taking a strike vote and potentially going on strike in addition to all of the other pressures and fears that exist.” 

The four-year agreement also includes a recommendation for UNA members to receive a one-time, lump-sum payment of one per cent for every hour worked in 2021 in recognition of their contributions during the pandemic. Two annual lump-sum payments that were a sticking point for AHS will be added to a wage grid.

As well, the recommendations include enhanced psychological support, improvements to workload considerations, and funding for recruitment and retainment for rural positions.

In a statement, Finance Minister Travis Toews said that, if ratified, the deal will provide labour stability in the health-care system.

“I respect the frontline and unique clinical role nurses have played — and continue to play — during the COVID pandemic,” Toews said. “This deal recognizes their hard work and dedication, and the many sacrifices nurses have made since the pandemic began.”

UNA represents more than 30,000 nurses and some other health-care workers. The agreement also covers UNA members who work for Covenant Health, Lamont Health Care and The Bethany Group (Canmore).

Smith said the next step is a meeting with local union leaders on Jan. 7, 2022. If that goes well, the union is proposing members vote to ratify the deal 10 days later on Jan. 17.

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