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Alberta Nurses ratify a new collective agreement, get 4.25% wage increase

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t’s good news for healthcare workers/nurses in Alberta. With the members of United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) having agreed to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement, the nurses are set to receive a 4.25% pay rise over the life of the agreement. The agreement has been settled between the UNA and Alberta Health Services, Covenant Health, Lamont Health Care, and The Bethany Group. 

This comes as a booster for nurses who have been working incessantly during the pandemic, and amidst the nursing shortage alarm that Canada is witnessing. It provides good opportunities for those who are exploring a career in the healthcare industry.

Click to play video: 'War of words between United Nurses of Alberta and province over collective bargaining'
Photo Source: Global News

As per the statement issued by UNA, the collective agreement is retroactive to 1 April 2020 and will be in effect until 31 March 2024. So, the pay increase will also be effective during these four years, reports Global News. The main terms of the agreement are as below: 

  • Nurses are entitled to a 4.25% pay increase over the life of the agreement i.e. four years (1 Apr 2020 - 31 Mar 2024).
  • The current semi-annual lump-sum payments are to be converted to the wage grid.
  • Recognizing the nurses’ efforts during the pandemic COVID-19, a one-time lump-sum payment of 1% per hour will be given to the nurses for the hours worked for 2021. 
  • Improved support for psychological and mental health needs.
  • Creation of a union-employer provincial workload advisory committee.
  • A sum of $5 million a year toward recruitment and retention strategies in rural and remote areas. 
  • $2.5 million a year for relocation assistance.

The provincial nursing union had to negotiate and convince its members for a period that’s counted as the longest in its 44-year history. Earlier in January 2020, an agreement was put forth by the Alberta Health Services (AHS) negotiators that proposed a zero percent salary increase for nurses per year.

Over 30,000 nurses are part of United Nurses of Alberta, and they opposed the agreement as it meant more cutbacks. The semi-annual lump-sum payments were getting eliminated and also the shifts were to be reduced with no weekend premiums. However, UNA stated that employers returned to current overtime provisions and offered transportation and education allowances.

After a formal mediation was sought, the mediator sought some recommendations that have been approved and included in the current agreement. 

UNA President Heather Smith said on Jan 27, “The bargaining committee felt strongly the mediator’s recommendation issued on Dec 21 was a fair deal that will benefit our members and also fair to the people of Alberta.” She added, “I am gratified that the members agreed with the bargaining committee’s recommendation and voted by 87 percent to ratify this agreement.”

Photo Caption: Premier Jason Kenney speaking at a press conference about the new collective bargaining agreement. Source: Global News

Premier Jason Kenney expressed his happiness on this decision of the nurses’ union to ratify the new collective bargaining agreement. He mentioned in his speech that it was a win-win and a compromise for both nurses and taxpayers. “It provides for modest compensation increases, but in line with our need to be fiscally responsible,” Kenney said.

He added, “It ensures that Alberta nurses continue to be the best compensated in Canada but at the same time, it brings their compensation closer to the national average and other provinces. We’re very happy that we could come to this agreement, which ensures continuity of service and stability amongst our critical workforce of nurses.”

Do you want to be a valued member of the healthcare industry and provide optimal patient care? Are you passionate about serving the community and contributing your bit as a change-maker and earning well too? 

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