Mediator forces AHS to reverse wage rollbacks

After nearly a month of voluntary mediation, HSAA workers now have a tentative agreement to vote on, one that doesn’t include the 5.36% wage rollbacks originally proposed by AHS.

Last month, I reported on contract negotiations stalling between Alberta Health Services and the Health Sciences Association of Alberta. That article said that negotiations had moved to mediation due to this impasse.

In an email released to its members earlier this week, the HSAA reported that the mediation had resulted in a contract that the bargaining teams of both HSAA and AHS had agreed to.

The union, which represents over 27,000 paramedical technical, professional and general support employees in the public and private healthcare sectors in Alberta had been bargaining with AHS for months to develop a new contract.

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Their most recent collective agreement expired 31 March 2020, meaning that they’ve gone two years without a contract. On top of that, HSAA workers haven’t seen any wage increases since 2015.

AHS had proposed wage rollbacks for over half of HSAA workers, retroactive to 1 April 2020; however, the size of the rollbacks varied depending on profession.

Pharmacy technician-10.93%
Social worker-10.90%
Speech language pathologist-8.69%
Respiratory therapist-8.05%
Health information management professional-7.49%
Occupational therapist-5.39%
Therapy assistant-2.35%
Diagnostic sonographer-1.87%
Advanced care paramedic-0.28%

That’s an average wage rollback of 5.36%.

Until mediation, the AHS bargaining team had refused to back down on these rollbacks, which was the primary motivation to move to voluntary mediation.

However, according to the email sent out to members, the mediator’s report “took those off the table and replaced them with the following recommendation for wage increases for all members, in all disciplines”:

YearEffective dateIncrease
1st1 April 20200.00%
2nd1 October 20211.00%
3rd1 September 20221.25%
4th1 April 20232.00%

These are significantly less than the increases HSAA’s bargaining team had originally proposed.

  • 2020: 2.6%
  • 2021: 4.2%
  • 2022: 4.74%
  • 2023: 3.66%

HSAA workers will also received a COVID pandemic lump sum of 1% for every hour worked in 2021.

If approved by the membership, this 4-year agreement will be effective 1 April 2020, which means it will expire in 2024. As a result, the HSAA bargaining team may get only a short break before they’re back at it late next year in anticipation of the next contract.

The email also outlined 4 changes to benefits that came about through the mediation process.

  • Omitting the requirement for a physician’s order to access registered massage therapy and orthotics 
  • Increase of registered massage therapy benefits to $50 per visit to a maximum of $1,000 per year 
  • Increase of occupational and physical therapy benefits to $50 per visit and a combined maximum of $1,000 per year 
  • Enhanced benefits coverage for chartered psychologist/Master of Social Work/addictions counsellor services, to be reconfigured to eliminate the per visit and 20 visit per year maximums and implemented a combined maximum of $3,000 per participant per benefit year

Here is a detailed list of all the gains and the AHS’s proposed concessions.

The HSAA bargaining team will be holding several telephone town halls next week:

  • Tuesday, July 5, 19:00–21:00 
  • Wednesday, July 6, noon–14:00 
  • Wednesday, July 6, 17:00–19:00
  • Thursday, July 7, 19:00–21:00
  • Friday, July 8, noon–14:00

The townhall meetings will be an opportunity for HSAA members to learn more about the more than 70 gains that the bargaining team (on their own and through the help of the mediator) was able to win for the membership.

Members will vote on the proposal via online ballot between 11 and 25 July.

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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.

3 replies on “Mediator forces AHS to reverse wage rollbacks”

Thank you for keeping us up on all this, Kim.

FYI: Typo. The email also outlined 4 changes to beenfits that came about through the mediation process.

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