Edmonton

AUPE, provincial government reach tentative deal

After talks broke down in March, AUPE says it entered into mediation with the province. More than 20,000 members will vote on the new mediated settlement.

'To be perfectly frank, I didn’t think we would get to this point'

"The government as an employer, in our opinion, was bound and determined to gain a number of concessions out of our members," AUPE president Guy Smith said. (Sam Martin/CBC )

After months of what the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) referred to as intense negotiations, a mediated settlement has been reached with the provincial government. 

AUPE represents 22,000 Government of Alberta employees like corrections workers, social workers and parks employees.

The groups have been in mediation since March after talks broke down.

"To be perfectly frank, I didn't think we would get to this point," Guy Smith, AUPE president, said. 

"The government as an employer, in our opinion, was bound and determined to gain a number of concessions out of our members," Smith said.

The concessions the government wanted included a salary rollback, reductions in overtime pay, as well as reductions in benefits, among other things. According to an AUPE news release, these concessions are no longer on the table.

Here are some things the membership are voting on in the coming weeks, according to an AUPE news release: 

  • 1.25 per cent salary increase effective January 1, 2023.
  • Minimum 1.5 per cent salary increase with potential for additional 0.5 per cent increase based on economic factors effective September 1, 2023.
  • Eight per cent salary increase for employees performing duties as part of the Rural Alberta Provincial Integrated Defence (RAPID) Response force as a result of significant expansion of policing duties, responsibilities and risks. The eight per cent increase will be retroactive to April 1, 2021 and remain in place as long as RAPID exists.

According to Smith, there had been steps taken to prepare for job action if necessary, including training hundreds of picket captains. 

"We put all those processes in place and until we know this is a done deal, we will continue to [do so]," he said. 

"I think the government saw our resolve. Obviously, we didn't want to be on picket lines, nobody does. We were determined to be prepared for it."

Union members still have to vote on the deal. The bargaining committee is recommending that members vote in favour of ratification.

Finance Minister Travis Toews said he is glad the agreement could bring labour stability for the public service.

"I respect the hard work and dedication of Alberta's Public Service employees and look forward to the results of the ratification vote," Toews said in an emailed statement.

Details of the agreement will be sent out through the mail, and due to COVID-19, Smith says they will also use a mail-in ballot system for the vote. He anticipated they will know the results in mid-December.

Smith said he hoped this signals a shift in the government's approach to other negotiations as well.

There are negotiations happening right now that include workers in healthcare and post secondary institutions as well as a number of other groups. 

"There is some thought that this proposed settlement may have an impact on those tables as well because we're seeing concessions across the board at those tables," Smith said.

"We're hoping that this does reflect improved negotiations in those other areas as well."

The AUPE will be holding virtual town hall meetings for members who may have questions or concerns about the agreement. Those are expected to be held in November.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tricia Kindleman

Reporter/Producer

Tricia Kindleman has spent her life in Alberta. She grew up in Edmonton and attended Mount Royal College, now university, in Calgary. She has worked in newsrooms in Edmonton and Grande Prairie.

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