Care home workers to vote on 6.25% raise

If ratified, the tentative 5-year contract will be the first contract these more than 200 health care workers will have had since their last one expired nearly 4 years ago.

Last week, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees published an update on their website regarding negotiations for members of their union employed by SE Health.

These 200 or so workers are employed at Millrise Seniors Village in Southwest Calgary and include health care aides, licensed practical nurses, registerd nurses, kitchen staff, servers, occupational therapist, maintenance staff, laundry staff, and so on.

Their most recent contract expired at the end of 2019, which means they”ve gone almost 4 years without a single raise.

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In their announcement, AUPE announced that the bargaining team for these workers was able to negotiate a tentative 5-year agreement.

However, since nearly 4 years have already gone by since the most recent one expired, this one will have only a little more than a year left before it itself expires.

Here are the wage increases that the bargaining team was able to negotiate with the employer.

1 January 20200.00%
1 January 20211.00%
1 January 20221.25%
1 January 20232.00%
1 January 20242.00%

That’s a total of 6.25%, or an average of 1.25% per year.

Keep in mind that the consumer price index in January 2019—the last time these workers got a raise—was 140.5. Last month, it sat at 166.0. In other words, inflation has increased 18.1% during that time.

That’s more than 4 times the 4.25% in retroactive increases if this deal is ratified. Sure there’s still another 2% coming in January, but inflation will increase even more by the end of 2024, when they’ll be due for another raise.

Let’s be generous and include the additional 2% scheduled for 2024, however. It’s still a reduction in real wages, which is wages adjusted for inflation.

Raises during this contract will increase by 6.25%. Or rather 6.39% if you account for compound raises. But since inflation increased 18.1%, it’s more like a 11.76% wage cut.

To put it another way, for every $100 these workers spent in January 2019, they’d be able to afford only to spend $88.24 on the same things. And remember, that’s after all these wage increases.

That being said, that’s not the only money these workers will receive. All the workers will be eligible for a COVID-19 pandemic lump sum payment for any hours they worked in 2021. It’ll be 1% of the basic rate of pay, or $1 for every $100 they made at their basic rate.

If they made $30,000 in base pay in 2021, then they’d qualify for an additional $300.

As well, general support services workers (not HCAs, LPNs, or RNs) will be eligible for an additional lump sum payment at their basic rate of pay, but only to a maximum of $1,4o0.

Remember, lump sum payments are one-time payments. They are not counted when applying your raise the following year.

If a GSS worker makes $50,000 in 2021, for example, and gets $500 in pandemic payment and $1,400 in the GSS payment, the raise they get in January 2022 will be based on the $50,000 they made (or rather their hourly rate that the $50,000 was based off), not the $51,900 they actually got.

Lump sum payments are short-term benefits.

Along with these wage increases and lump sum payments, the tentative agreement includes shift premium increases.

Jan 2019Jan 2024Jul 2024

As well, the flexible spending account will increase from $500 a year to $800.

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation will be added to the list of paid holidays and will be retroactive to September 2021.

The ratification vote will take place on Halloween at Millrise Seniors Village. The union said they will let everyone know the exact times and in which room the vote will occur. They will also be emailing a copy of the tentative agreement to all the members of this chapter.

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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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