Alberta finance minister accuses nurses’ union of trying to ‘take advantage of a health crisis’

Finance Minister Travis Toews issued a blistering news release on Thursday afternoon, accusing an Alberta nurses union of orchestrating an “overreaching and disingenuous demand for indefinite job security” that he described as “a shameful effort to take advantage of a health crisis.”

Toews issued the statement after the United Nurses of Alberta, which represents more than 30,000 registered nurses, registered psychiatric nurses and “allied workers,” announced it had rejected Alberta Health Services’ proposal to delay collective bargaining until 2021.

“I am extremely disappointed that the union leadership of the United Nurses of Alberta has rejected stability during a pandemic,” Toews’ statement reads in part. “AHS offered job security during the pandemic in exchange for a pause in negotiations until March 31, 2021.

“It is regrettable that UNA’s union leadership has decided to play games in the media around this common sense offer to a pause bargaining.”

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Earlier in the day, the UNA posted an update on its website, saying it had proposed to AHS that negotiations resume next month.

“However, after UNA suggested negotiations resume on Nov. 16, 2020, AHS rejected that proposal, instead suggesting that the two bargaining teams next meet on March 31, 2021,” the union said. “UNA declined the AHS position to delay negotiations until 2021, as well as an offer to delay layoffs until that date.

“UNA believes that any layoffs should be postponed until a new collective agreement is reached.”

Global News has reached out to AHS for comment.

The UNA said it wants clarity from AHS on a number of things, including operational best practices, the contracting out of home-care services, including nursing, palliative and pediatric care, the reconfiguration of services provided at “smaller health-care work sites” and the potential closure of acute care beds.

Earlier this month, the UNA told Global News that the reason it wants to get back to the bargaining table sooner than later is to find a long-term solution to addressing safety, staffing and pay concerns that nurses are voicing, particularly amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Watch below: Some Global News videos about nurses in Alberta during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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