No immediate wage increases for Alberta nurses in terms of mediated settlement

In a notice on its website, the United Nurses of Alberta is recommending its 30,000 members accept the terms of a mediated settlement.

Tentative contract agreement reached with 30,000 Alberta nurses

Alberta's 30,000 registered nurses will be asked to accept a contract agreement with zero per cent wage increase for two years. (Canadian Press)

The wages of Alberta's 30,000 registered nurses would be frozen for the next two years under a mediator's recommendations for a contract settlement between their union and Alberta Health Services. 

The United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) said Monday it has recommended the terms and conditions for the new collective agreement be ratified by its members.

The terms call for a zero per cent wage increase for two years but recommend salaries be re-opened to negotiation in the third year of the collective agreement, which expires in March 2020.

UNA president Heather Smith says the terms achieve the main priorities of nurses, which were job security and advocacy.

Smith says the UNA did not enter bargaining with high expectations of "huge monetary gains."

"We went to the bargaining table mindful of the economic environment that surrounds us," said Smith.

A key to the agreement, said Smith, is the provision surrounding job security for the next two years.

Calling it a "huge win," Smith said nurses cannot be laid off involuntarily or have their hours cut back.

In addition to job security, the mediator recommends extended leave provisions, and a change to the professional responsibility process.

The process would include an external independent assessment committee, and an arbitration process if agreed upon recommendations are not implemented.

AHS, which employs 28,400 nurses, has not yet endorsed the recommendations. 

In an emailed statement to CBC News, AHS spokesperson Kirsten Goruk said the mediator's recommendations were received Jan. 5, and AHS has not signed off on the terms. 

"AHS will be taking some time to review these recommendations," wrote Goruk.

While presenting the Alberta government's second-quarter fiscal update in November, Finance Minister Joe Ceci suggested the government would like its public sector unions — including the 90,000-member Alberta Union of Provincial Employees — to accept wage freezes in current contract talks.

He specifically referenced the April announcement by the Alberta Teachers Association, which had reached a deal that did not include salary increases for teachers. That deal is set to expire at the end of this school year. 

The UNA negotiating committee will present its findings to UNA locals on Jan. 25 in Calgary.