Alberta nurses agree to 4.25% wage increase

The increase, spread out over 4 years, is better than what nurses got while the NDP were in government.

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

* When the 2017 CBA was ratified during the NDP administration, it was supposed to be wage freezes in 2016–17 and 2017–18, with renegotiation in 2019-2020. AHS under the UCP proposed a 3% wage rollback for that final year and UNA proposed a 3% increase. The 0% listed in the above table was the result of arbitration.

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?

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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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