Earlier this week the United Nurses of Alberta ratified their new collective bargaining agreement.
In an online vote held on Tuesday and Wednesday of this past week, 87% of those who voted chose to ratify the agreement, which itself was a result of recommendations that an independent mediator, Lyle Kanee, made last month.
According to the UNA, the new agreement is retroactive to 1 April 2020 and will run until 31 March 2024. Which means, negotiations will probably start again next year.
The new CBA includes the following changes:
- 4.25% pay increases over the life of the agreement
- Conversion of current semi-annual lump-sum payments to the wage grid
- A one-time lump sum payment of 1% per hour worked for 2021 in recognition of nurses’ contributions during the pandemic
- Enhanced psychological and mental health supports
- Creation of a union-employer provincial workload advisory committee.
- Implementation of a Rural Capacity Investment Fund, which will allocate $5 million a year to recruitment and retention strategies in rural and remote areas of the province, and $2.5 million a year for relocation assistance.
I want to focus on just the pay increases.
A pay increase of 4.25% seems like a big deal, even if it averages out to just over 1% a year. Especially when you consider that going into bargaining, Alberta Health Services had originally proposed a 3% wage rollback in the first year and wage freezes in the final 3 years.
On the other hand, UNA had originally proposed an increase of 2% annually.
So, in short, it’s not as much as they wanted, but I guess it could’ve been worse.
The final 4.25% will be broken down as 0% in the first year (2020), 1% in the second year (2021), 1.25% this year, and 2% next year.
And actually—as far as salary increases go—this is a better deal than the UNA got in 2017, under the NDP government.
Here, take a look at the salary increases for the last 3 CBAs
Nurses saw no wage increases for the CBA negotiated during the NDP administration.
Over the last 10 years, Alberta nurses saw an average wage increase of 1.15%, and a total increase of 11.5%. Inflation averaged 1.49% during the same period, with a combined inflation of 15.99%.
For the last 10 decades, nurses wage increases haven’t even been keeping up with inflation.
Which raises the question: will Alberta nurses ever see a government that takes them seriously?