Fort Saskatchewan nurses win new contract

Their previous contract expired nearly 3 years ago.

Last week, the United Nurses of Alberta announced that their members employed at Rivercrest Care Centre in Fort Saskatchewan had ratified a new collective agreement.

The previous contract for these workers expired in March 2020, during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Interestingly enough, that also happened to be the month that they settled on their contract.

So, basically, bargaining on this 3-year contract finished the same month it expired, which meant that they had to go right into bargaining on this new one, which they won after another 3 years of bargaining. To be fair, however, early bargaining was delayed because of public health protections implemented by the Alberta government.

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This new agreement expires next March and is retroactive to March 2020, making it a 4-year contract.

The media release that UNA published reports that there will be a retroactive pay raise of 4.25% as of 1 January 2022, as well as a raise of 2% retroactive to 1 January 2023.

The media doesn’t say what the pay raises will be for 2020 or 2021, however. I assume that means those two years will come with wage freezes. If so, that follows 3 years of wage freezes under the previous agreement.

While a 6.25% combined increase for this year and last year might seem impressive, 5 years of wage freezes in a row prior to that give us an average annual increase of just 0.89% since 2017.

In July 2017, when the previous contract took effect, the consumer price index for Alberta sat at 137. Last July, it sat at 161.4. That’s an increase of 24.4, or 17.8%.

In other words, inflation during the last contract and the first two years of the new contract combined was 17.8%. That’s almost 3 times the increase that these nurses will see on their wages during this new contract.

And that’s not even counting inflation up to this July or next July yet.

Let’s put it another way.

For every $100 nurses got in July 2017, they’ll receive $106.25 by July 2024. However, for every $100 they spent in July 2017, they’ll now have to pay $117.80. And again, that’s just as of last July. We still have two more years of inflation to process.

That being said, the new contract also includes a one-time pandemic wage increase. Eligible workers will receive 1% of the basic rate of pay for all hours worked between 1 January 2021 and 31 December 2021 as recognition for services rendered during the COVID-19 response.

Not sure what happened to all those pandemic hours worked in 2020, however.

Here are some other changes in the new contract:

  • 2✕ premium if a worker’s schedule has been changed without having been given 7 days notice
  • Increases in evening, night, and weekend differential pay
  • Clarified definitions of categories of employment (i.e. regular, temporary, and casual employee)
  • Increases to maternal and parental leave to 18 months
  • Benefit coverage for eligible temporary employees working more than 6 months
  • National Day of Truth and Reconciliation as a named holiday.

This contract affects over 30 nurses working for Rivercrest Lodge Nursing Home Ltd.

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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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