Last week, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees published a media release on their website announcing that negotiations with the Good Samaritan Society have resulted in a tentative agreement.
Good Samaritan Society, together with Good Samaritan Canada, provides care homes and programmes that serve over 7,000 individuals across Alberta and British Columbia.
AUPE workers employed by Good Samaritan in Alberta have been trying to negotiate a new bargaining agreement for years. In fact, their most recent contract expired at the end of June 2017, over 6 years ago.
Workers affected by the lack of contract are employed at 17 facilities throughout Alberta, including in Lethbridge, Cardston, Magrath, and Raymond.
Because these workers have had no new contract since 2017, the employer hasn’t been contractually obligated to raise wages this entire time. That means that workers have paid wages that were set in July 2016. For example, food service worker wages were frozen at $15.90 an hour, just barely above minimum wage.
In July 2016, Alberta’s consumer price index sat at 135.9. In July 2023 (the latest data we have), CPI had jumped to 166.0. That means that things costs 22.1% more in Alberta than they did 7 years ago. And these nearly 1,600 workers have to try and make the higher cost of living work with wages that have been effectively frozen since 2016.
Last spring, Good Samaritan proposed four years of wage freezes, followed by a combined 1.75% increase over the last 3 years of the 7-year contract.
The AUPE bargaining team countered with 3 years of wage freezes and a combined increase of 5% over the final 4 years of the new conrtract.
Unfortunately, neither of the two parties was willing to make concessions, so the matter went to mediation this past June at the request of AUPE.
According to the AUPE, the mediator has finally released recommendations on the new proposed contract. Here are the proposed wage increases, compared to what the two parties originally proposed.
Ratification votes will take place at various workplaces around the province throughout September. Check out the AUPE website for details on dates, times, and locations. The ratification vote count will occur on 27 September at AUPE’s headquarters in Edmonton.
Even if the workers vote in favour of ratification, the Good Samaritan has to approve it, too, so it’s no guarantee that they’ll finally have a contract.
If both the employer and the workers approve the contract, however, it’ll be in effect until 30 June 2024. That means that the bargaining team will have hardly any time to celebrate the new contract before beginning the bargaining process on the next one.
As you can see, the recommended wage increases are significantly higher than what Good Samaritan had proposed, yet still short of the wage increases that the workers’ negotiating team had demanded.
Even with it being larger than the 1.75% that Good Samaritan had wanted, the mediator’s recommended 4.25% is still far short of the 22.1% needed for these workers to be able to afford the increase to the cost of living over the last 7 years.
The consumer price index in Alberta increased at an average of 3.16% per year since 2016; however, the mediator is recommending an average annual increase of just 0.61%. And that’s not counting how much inflation might grow over the next year, the final year of this yet-to-be-signed contract.
Keep in mind, as well, that under the previous contract, some workers in auxiliary nursing care received 3 years of wage freezes. That included nursing attendants, assisted living workers, health care aides, therapy aides, licensed practical nurses, therapy assistants, and home support workers. That’s 7 years in a row without a wage increase.
General support workers (clerks, cooks, housekeeping, laundry, maintenance, etc) received a 2.99% increase, which was less than 1% per year in their previous 3-year contract. That means 10 years of below-inflation wage increases.
The mediator also recommended a 1% lump sum payment for all hours worked in 2021.
While that’s better than nothing, the problem with lump sum payments is that it keeps your base salary at the same level, so when the wage increase actually takes effect in 2022, it’s based on a 1.25% increase in 2021, not the total 2.25% that the lump sump tops up the increase to that year.
Keep in mind that it could’ve been worse. Good Samaritan had proposed a 0.75% lump sum payment.