AGLC workers to vote on 3 years of wage freezes

If approved, this will make 5 years of wage freezes over the last 6 years.

Earlier this week, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees published an update on negotiations for workers employed by Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis.

The most recent contract between these workers and AGLC expired at the end of July 2020.

However, bargaining for a new contract didn’t start until last year, as the AUPE’s bargaining team was still trying to negotiate on a wage reopener that the AGLC’s bargaining team under the NDP administration had included in the previous contract.

That wage reopener was supposed to occur in 2019, but due to delays with the provincial election, the new UCP administration, and the pandemic, that reopener wasn’t finalized until April 2021.

And even then, it had to go to arbitration.

Including the wage increase awarded by the arbitrator, AGLC workers received a wage freeze in each of the first two years of their previous contract, and a 1% increase in the third year.

This past summer, AUPE’s bargaining team brought forward a tentative agreement to AGLC workers, and recommended that they ratify this agreement.

As far as wage increases go, AUPE’s bargaining team recommended the following:

0.00%1 Aug 2020
0.00%1 Aug 2021
0.00%1 Aug 2022
1.25%1 May 2023
1.50%1 Jan 2024

Had it been approved, it would’ve meant 5 years of wage freezes in a 6-year period, and a total increase of 3.75% over an 8-year period.

Just a reminder, that in the first 10 months of 2022, Alberta’s inflation averaged 6.5%. In the last 5 months, it’s averaged 6.96%.

And that’s not counting inflation in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, or 2021, let alone inflation next year and the following year.

Even so, AGLC workers voted against that contract last month, forcing the bargaining to go to informal mediation.

A little over a month later, and mediation has pretty much resulted in the same wage increases. The difference is that the 2023 wage increase would take effect as of January instead of May, and the 2024 increase would occur in September 2023, rather than in January 2024.

But the actual amounts haven’t changed. It’d still be an overall increase of 2.75%, with wage freezes in the first 3 years.

One other thing is that both in August and this month, the two bargaining teams negotiated an additional 0.5% but with some conditions.

Basically, the workers will get that extra half of a percent only if Alberta’s real GDP is at least 2.7% in February 2024. It’d be retroactive to January 2024.

The only other major development to come out of negotiations is that the two parties agreed to a new letter of understanding, which established a new joint committee between the workers and the employer within 30 days of ratification to discuss alternate work arrangements, such as telecommuting, hybrid, and compressed work weeks.

The ratification vote will occur over 3 days, beginning on 6 December, following a town hall meeting, where the negotiations process and the tentative contract will be discussed.

The vote will be electronic.

It’ll be interesting to see whether workers feel that getting their raise 5 months earlier is a sufficient enough of a change from the last contract they voted on.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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