East Edmonton seniors home hit by strike

More than 100 licensed practical nurses and health care aides are set to strike at an east Edmonton care centre Tuesday morning.

Wages at heart of dispute

More than 100 licensed practical nurses and nursing aides are set to strike at 7 a.m. Tuesday at the Hardisty Care Centre in east Edmonton.

More than 100 licensed practical nurses and nursing aides are set to strike at an east Edmonton care centre Tuesday morning.

Pickets will set up at 7 a.m. at the 180-bed Hardisty Care Centre at 6420-101 Ave.

The dispute centres over wages.

The company has been attempting to reach a first contract with its employees since December 2011.

A provincially-appointed Dispute Inquiry Board proposed Hardisty hike wages to the industry standard over three years, but that was rejected by the company, said the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees. 

The union said Hardisty pays workers 30 per cent less than called for in the Alberta Health Services collective agreement, but is funded by the province to pay the full rate. 

"We wouldn’t be in this situation if (Hardisty) was paying the industry-standard wages they get public funding for to attract and retain nursing staff that can maintain the quality of care seniors deserve," said AUPE president Guy Smith.

Company warns of long strike

Hardisty said the 30-per-cent increase in wages and benefits AUPE is demanding can only be met by reducing work hours and laying off staff.

The company counter-offered with a 10-per-cent increase in wages plus enhanced benefits and working conditions.

"We’ve offered as much as we can without compromising the care of our residents, who are primarily frail elderly or those suffering from cognitive decline," said Ian West, vice president of operations for Park Place Seniors Living Inc., the Vancouver company that operates the Hardisty Care Centre.

The company warned the union should expect a long strike after rejecting an offer of binding arbitration.

"Once the workers walk out, the impasse will only be resolved by a return to negotiations or for the government to step in if an emergency situation develops at the care home," the company said in a news release.