Last week, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees published an update on collective bargaining with 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 6 years ago.
Workers affected by the lack of contract are employed at 18 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 2023 (the latest data we have), CPI had jumped to 161.7. That means that things costs 18.98% more in Alberta than they did 7 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.
And Good Samaritan isn’t trying to meaningfully change those wages in any meaningful way. Here’s what they’re proposing for wage increases.
In addition, they’re proposing a one-time lump sum payment of 0.75% for all hours worked in 2021.
The wage increases themselves come to a total of 1.75% over the last 7 years. That’s an average of 0.25% per year.
And remember, as I pointed out above, inflation during this period, was roughly 19%. And that’s not counting inflation over the last year of the contract. There’s no way this increase will allow workers to afford the increase to the cost of living since 2016.
The proposal from the AUPE bargaining team came with larger wage increases, but it still falls short of meeting inflation.
While this combined increase of 5% is significantly higher than the 1.75% proposed by Good Samaritan, it still falls far short of meeting increases of 19% to the cost of living.
AUPE also countered the 0.75% lump sum payment with their own lump sum proposal of 1.00% for all hours worked in 2021.
As well, they’re suggesting a 2% retroactive increment for all workers with 20 or more years of service to the company.
The workers’ bargaining team has also proposed converting the health spending account into a flexible spending account. According to the union, all Good Samaritan workers, except the AUPE workers, have a flexible spending account. Plus, they want to increase the spending account from $600 to $800.
Wages, the spending account, and contract language around layoffs are apparently the only remaining issues that need to be negotiated.
Negotiations will resume next week, on the 3rd.
AUPE represents workers in various roles at Good Samaritan, including licensed practical nurses, assisted living workers, health care aides, food service aides, supportive housing workers, and cooks.