Nurses union and AHS face off over competing leave priorities

The United Nurses of Alberta is accusing Alberta Health Services of negotiating in bad faith when it said it couldn't afford paid leave for domestic violence survivors and then implemented paid leave for organ donors.

Union says paid leave for domestic violence survivors was abandoned when it was told there was no money

Alberta Health Services is defending its decision to provide paid leave for organ and tissue donors. (David Bajer/CBC)

The United Nurses of Alberta is accusing Alberta Health Services of negotiating in bad faith after the union pulled a request for paid leave for domestic violence survivors because it says negotiators were told there was no money for the plan. 

Then AHS introduced paid leave for organ and tissue donors.

"We were asking for 10 days in the event of domestic violence," said David Harrigan, director of labour relations for UNA. 

"They were saying there's no way they could possibly do that, and then we discovered that they just unilaterally introduced a policy where people could get up to 12 weeks of paid leave. So we tried to work it out with AHS and we were not successful."

UNA asked for the domestic violence leave during its contract negotiations last year and claims AHS said it couldn't afford higher costs for things like paid leave and higher wages. 

Support for organ donation

Harrigan says they support the plan to encourage organ and tissue donation, but that's not the point. 

"We think that we should be encouraging employees to donate, and organ donation is important," said Harrigan

"The problem was that they had an obligation to discuss it with the union. They didn't do that. They just unilaterally implemented it."

The union has filed a complaint with the labour relations board, but AHS is defending its decision.

"At AHS, we want to reduce any barriers that may prevent someone from becoming a living donor, and this includes helping and supporting our staff before, during and after a transplant," wrote the agency in a statement to CBC News.

"Research shows that the financial burden to living organ donors is significant and may be one of the reasons why individuals choose not to act as living donors."

Unpaid leave for domestic violence

AHS also says it supports employees who are affected by domestic violence, including "access to leave as set out by government legislation and our employee and family assistance program."

That government-mandated leave, however, is unpaid. 

AHS says it hopes to resolve the dispute through the labour board resolution process.

With files from Jennifer Lee


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