Edmonton

Alberta nursing union votes to ratify new collective agreement

Alberta’s nursing union has voted to ratify a new collective agreement with provincial health providers.

Deal includes 4.25 per cent pay increase over 4 years

Nurses and supporters rally in front of Edmonton's Royal Alexandra hospital in August as nurses held a Day of Action information picket against cutbacks by the Alberta government. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Alberta's nursing union has voted to ratify a new collective agreement with provincial health providers.

A large majority — 87 per cent — voted in favour of the new agreement during virtual polling this week, according to a news release from the United Nurses of Alberta.

The UNA and Alberta Health Services negotiating units struck a tentative deal last month after a mediator recommended a pay increase of 4.25 per cent over a four-year term.

It follows a lengthy and contentious bargaining process that began in 2020. The province initially sought to cut nursing wages but took it off the table in September last year.

UNA president Heather Smith said part of the shift was a recognition of nursing contributions through the pandemic.

"I think that the messaging from our members was important as well: that we go forward, we don't go back," she said.

During Thursday's COVID-19 update, Premier Jason Kenney said he was pleased the deal was ratified, calling it a good compromise between parties.

"I believe that this collective bargaining agreement is a win-win because it provides for modest compensation increases but in line with our need to be fiscally responsible," he said. 

"I think it's a win for nurses and a win for taxpayers."

Finance Minister Travis Toews echoed his comments in a statement, saying the agreement keeps health-care spending comparative to other jurisdictions while offering fair compensation.

Terms of agreement

The new agreement is retroactive to April 2020 and runs until March 2024.

In addition to the pay increase, it includes 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, which were a sticking point for AHS, will be added to a wage grid.

Enhanced psychological and mental health supports are also promised in the new agreement, as well as the creation of a union-employer provincial workload advisory committee.

"This is giving us some meaningful place at the table in terms of evidence and discussing and hopefully not … further diluting the quality and the skill level for patients," Smith said.

She said the agreement brings stability but expects future confrontations over health-care privatization.

"But I think there's a sigh of relief that this chapter is closed for at least the near future."

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 (Camrose).

With files from Paige Parsons

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