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Covenant Health nursing care workers win wage increases

After over 2 years without a contract and many months of bargaining, auxiliary nursing care workers with Covenant Health have won wage increases until 2024, although they’re less than they hoped for.

Earlier this week, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees announced that their bargaining team had reached a tentative collective agreement on behalf of Covenant Health auxiliary nursing care workers.

Covenant Health is a Catholic healthcare organizations that operates 17 hospitals and care centres in 12 Alberta communities: Banff, Bonnyville, Camrose, Castor, Edmonton, Killam, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Mundare, St. Albert, Trochu, and Vegreville.

The previous agreement expired on 31 March 2020.

Bargaining had originally began in February 2020. AUPE had proposed a 2.5% wage increase for each of the 4 years of the new contract to keep up with inflation.

The employer responded with a general wage freeze for the same period. Plus they asked for some workers to take on salary rollbacks as high as 20%.

Covenant Health also wanted to cut the flexible spending accounts from $1,100 down to $850, and they proposed the following cuts to shift differentials and premiums.

OriginalProposed
Evening shift differential$2.75/hr$1.86/hr
Night shift differential$5.00/hr$2.85/hr
Weekend premium$3.25/hr$2.34/hr
Start time for evening differential15:0019:00
Weekend premium window64 hours48 hours

The COVID-19 pandemic delayed bargaining for another 11 months, tentatively scheduled to resume in January 2021; however, that was delayed for another month because Covenant had changed their bargaining team, and the new team members claimed they needed more time to become familiar with the proposals.

That was further delayed into June. And even then, further delays meant that bargaining didn’t resume until September, over a year and a half since the opening bargaining sessions.

Bargaining continued over the next several months, with the final sessions occurring in the middle of last month.

This week’s announcement showed that AUPE auxiliary nursing care workers will get less than they had originally proposed but more than the wage freezes in Covenant’s original proposal.

Effective dateWage increase
1 Apr 20200.00%
1 Oct 20211.00%
1 Sep 20221.25%
1 Apr 20232.00%

The AUPE bargaining team managed to negotiate a one-time one-time premium payment of 1.0% for all hours actually worked between 1 January and 31 December 2021. As well, if the agreement is approved, workers who have been with Covenant Health for 20 years or more will receive an additional 2% wage increase.

If AUPE members approve the new agreement, it will be in effect until 31 March 2024 and retroactive to 1 April 2020.

A date for ratification votes hasn’t been announced yet, but AUPE anticipates that it’ll occur mid-September.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news stories, focusing on politics and labour.

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