Earlier this week, workers with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees attended a rally in Taber regarding the lack of movement on collective bargaining by their employer, Good Samaritan.
Good Samaritan Society, together with Good Samaritan Canada, provides care homes and programmes that serve over 7,000 individuals across Alberta and British Columbia.
AUPE workers employed by Good Samaritan in Alberta have been trying to negotiate a new bargaining agreement for years. In fact, their most recent contract expired at the end of June 2017, nearly 5 years ago.
Workers affected by the lack of contract are employed at 17 facilities throughout Alberta, including in Lethbridge, Cardston, Raymond, Magrath, and Taber.
With no new contract, comes no pay increases, as the employer isn’t contractually obligated to raise wages. That means that workers are frozen at wages that were set in July 2016. For example, food service worker wages were frozen at $15.90 an hour, just barely above minimum wage.
In July 2016, Alberta’s consumer price index sat at 135.9. In March 2022 (the latest data we have), CPI had jumped to 157. That means that things costs 15.5% more in Alberta than they did 6 years ago. And these nearly 1,600 workers have to try and make the higher cost of living work with wages that have been effectively frozen since 2016.
So what’s the hold up? Why has negotiations dragged on for over 5 years?
Well, according to Guy Smith, AUPE president, it seems to be “a mixture of incompetence and malice on behalf of the employer”.
For example, this past March, AUPE reported that “many” of the Good Samaritan’s labour relations and human resources team were no longer working for the organization. That included people who had been assigned to negotiate contracts with workers.
The month before, AUPE reps were told that Good Samaritan had hired a new negotiator, who would start by the end of the month, but a few weeks later, they were told that the new negotiator would need some more time to prepare for bargaining.
Whenever they do end up returning to the bargaining table, one thing to keep in mind is that two years ago, as part of the same bargaining process, Good Samaritan proposed no increases to wages.
So, if the workers do end up finally getting a contract, their wages may end right where they are right now: frozen.