Drumheller outdoor workers get 9% raise

Their new contract brings changes to long service benefits and introduces personal leave and shift premiums.

In the July 2023 Bargaining Update released earlier this month, Alberta’s jobs, economy, and northern development ministry indicated that a new collective agreement for workers in Drumheller had been reached.

Settled on 4 July 2023, the new agreement is between the Town of Drumheller & District Seniors Foundation and Local 135 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents about 40 workers employed by the town.

These workers—which include those working outside, including general labourers, mechanics, equipment operators, gardeners, and plant operators—had been working on an old contract that had expired at the end of 2022.

According to the July 2023 Bargaining Update, these workers will receive a total increase of 9% over the 3-year term of their contract. Here’s how it breaks down per year.

1 January 20233%
1 January 20243%
1 January 20253%

Under the new contract, workers will see an improvement in their annual vacation time, with increases accruing earlier.

Vacation lengthLength of service
Length of service
3 weeks1 year1 year
4 weeks7 years5 years
5 weeks15 years10 years
6 weeks25 years20 years

The new contract removed the following clause:

13.03 If a recognized general holiday falls or is observed during an employee’s vacation period, he shall be allowed an additional vacation day with pay immediately following his vacation period or an additional day of vacation on some other day if mutually agreed to between the employee and supervisor.

The new contract also removed this clause:

13.06 (a) An employee shall be entitled to receive their vacation in an unbroken period except where their vacation entitlement is in excess of 3 weeks. In such a case, the employee’s vacation entitlement may be taken in an unbroken period only with the approval of the town.

and replaced it with this:

An employee must submit a written request to take vacation. Requests in excess of 3 weeks require the director’s approval.

They also replaced this clause:

13.06 (b)

Employees who are in their final year of employment may take their annual entitlement in an unbroken period immediately prior to their retirement provided the employee gives notice of retirement to the employer and makes application for the unbroken vacation period at least 6 weeks prior to the commencement of the unbroken vacation period.

with this one:

Employees can request to take up to 3 weeks vacation immediately prior to their retirement date. Requests to do so must be submitted at least 6 months prior to the start of the requested vacation. All remaining balances will be paid out.

The new contract added the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation to the list of paid holidays, for a total of 13 paid holidays per year.

In section 14.01, the new contract updated this sentence:

Where employees are required to work on December 24th for the full day to maintain required services, such employees shall be provided a ½ day off work with pay at a later date.

with this:

Where employees are required to work on December 24th for the full day to maintain required services, such employees shall be provided a ½ day off work with pay prior to January 2. Exceptions may be made based on operational requirements.

The new contract stipulates that if the Town of Drumheller requires a doctor’s note from a worker who takes sick leave, they will reimburse the worker for any costs related to getting the doctor’s note.

Under the new contract, workers who are permanent full-time will have their annual sick leave allotment topped by 10 days, to a maximum of 86 days in total. Under the previous contract, the top-up was only 8 days.

Under the previous contract, workers qualified for a long service bonus after they had been working for the town for 10 years. They would be credited the equivalent of 20 working days, which would then be paid out once the worker retired, resigned, or was permanently laid off. Plus, every year the worker remained employed continuously with the town, they’d be credited an additional 2 days.

Under the new contract, the long service bonus is $500 once the worker hits 10 years of continuous employment and paid out with that year.

The additional credits of subsequent years has been replaced with bonuses on just the 15th, 20th, 25th, 20th, 35th, 40th, and 45th anniversaries of continuous service. And that bonus is time off with pay, equivalent to 1 work week (or 5 days), rather than a cash payout at retirement, resignment, or layoff.

As well, anyone who had accrued long service credits were to receive a payout equivalent to those credits.

The new contract introduced 3 days of personal leave each year for permanent workers.

Personal leave days have to be related to the “health and wellbeing” of the worker or to help the worker “meet their family responsibilities in relation to a family member”. They can only be taken in half-day increments, and any unused days won’t roll over into the new year, nor will they be paid out.

Also new to this contract are shift premiums. Any worker having to work an evening shift (between 18:00 and 06:00 the following morning) shall receive an additional $1.50 per hour for every hour worked.

Workers, other than those in plant operations, will receive an additional $1.25 an hour for working in direct contact with sewage. As well, anyone spraying pesticides and herbicides will qualify for a $1.25 per hour premium.

According to Joel French, a communications representative at CUPE Alberta, the ratification vote occurred on 4 July 2023. About a third of the CUPE members employed at these two lodges turned out for the vote. The results were unanimously in favour of ratification.

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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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