More than 800 nursing staff at four Carewest seniors homes in Calgary finally have a collective agreement after an arbitrator settled the long-running contract dispute, says the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees.

"It was a difficult process," said union vice-president Susan Slade. "But in the end the arbitrator agreed with most of our major arguments. All we were asking for was for Carewest staff to be treated equally with Alberta Health Services employees."

The new deal — which runs until 2015 — gives the workers pay increases of three per cent annually for three years, along with improvements to benefits.

It brings them more in line with Alberta Health Services over the life of the collective agreement.

The four facilities covered by the collective agreement are the Dr. Vernon Fanning Centre, Glenmore Park, George Boyack and Colonel Belcher.

The workers have been without a collective agreement since June 2012. Bargaining broke down in early 2013 and the process went to binding arbitration after mediation failed to break the impasse.

"It's a fair and reasonable settlement," said AUPE staff negotiator John Wevers. "Carewest is a wholly owned subsidiary of AHS. There's no reason why they should be paid any differently."