Calgary care workers to vote on first contract

These continuing care workers are based out of Calgary and voted to unionize back in the summer of 2021. This is their first contract.

Last week, the Alberta Union of Public Employees announced that, with the help of a mediator, they had finally reached a first agreement for workers employed at Whitehorn Village in Calgary.

According to Alberta Health Services, 589184 Alberta Ltd. operates Whitehorn Village Retirement Community, an 53-unit independent living, assisted living, and memory care community in Calgary. The website for the community says that it is owned by a private, for-profit company called Origin.

In the summer of 2021, 100 licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and healthcare aides (HCAs) at Whitehorn Village voted by mail-in ballot to join AUPE.

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While their election was successful, the health workers it took two years to negotiate a collective agreement with the employer. In fact, it wasn’t until last March—nearly 1.5 years ago—that the employer finally sat down with AUPE reps to resume bargaining talks, despite the fact that the AUPE bargaining team had received worker feedback two year ago.

In an update posted to their website last summer, AUPE reported that the employer negotiating team rejected every monetary proposal AUPE brought to the table, including increasing the evening shift premium to $3 per hour from 75¢ an hour, the night shift premium to $5 per hour from $1.25, and the weekend premium to $3.25 per hour from $1.50.

Instead, the employer proposed an annual wage increase of only 1% over 3 years, despite inflation being 6% last year in Alberta. In contrast, according to AUPE, Whitehorn paid more than $40,000 in bonuses to managers, who also received raises ranging from 3% to 5%.

Last summer, AUPE accused the company of unionbusting and that negotiations would need to go to mediation because the employer refused to make any concessions.

After meeting with both parties over the last year or so, the mediator finally released recommendations for the new 3-year contract, which will be the first contract of these newly unionized workers, assuming it is ratified by the workers and approved by the employer.

According to AUPE’s recent announcement, health care aides will see an hourly wage increase from $18.50 for the starting wage and $22.30 for the top rate to $20.25 and $24.87, respectively.

Likewise, LPNs will see their starting wages increase from $26.25 an hour to $28.45, and the top rate will increase from $32.55 an hour to $35.00.

Old wageNew wageChange% change
HCA, starting$18.50$20.25$1.759.46%
HCA, top rate$22.30$24.87$2.5711.52%
LPN, starting$26.25$28.45$2.208.38%
LPN, top rate$32.55$35.00$2.457.53%

These salary increases will come into effect for this year only. There will be no retroactive pay increases; however, the workers should be receiving a 2.5% lump sum for all hours worked since becoming certified as a unionized workplace.

For some workers at Whitehorn Village, this will be the first raise they’ve received in years.

Workers will also receive increases to shift premiums, effective only to the date of ratification.

Evening shift premium$0.75$2.25$1.50
Night shift premium$1.25$3.50$2.25
Weekend shift premium$1.50$3.00$1.50

These workers will also receive an increase to sick leave. Previously, the employer was providing them with only 5 days a year. If ratified, the new contract will more than double that, for a total of 12 sick days a year. Plus, workers will be able to carry any unused sick days over into the new year, to a maximum of 36 days.

Bereavement leave has also increased by two days, but only for those who have to travel more than 350 kilometres as part of their leave.

Both LPNs and HCAs will receive 2 professional development days, and LPNs will qualify for an additional $200 every year to help cover the cost of licensing fees.

As well, RRSP contributions will double, from 1% to 2%, and workers who are the equivalent of a half full-time employee will be eligible for 100% employer-paid benefits.

The worker’s bargaining team will be holding an information session in the theatre room at Whitehorn Village, between 06:30 and 16:30 on 23 August. The ratification vote will occur after the information session.

If ratified, the new contract will expire in April 2024, which means that the bargaining committee will need to begin the negotiations process on the next contract pretty soon.

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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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