Retirement corp. wants workers to take 1.5% wage increase

Plus, they want to lower the starting wages of some of their workers.

Last week, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees published an update on contract negotiations between their members working at the Riverbend Retirement Residence in Edmonton and Revera, the Ontario-based corporation that owns the facility.

The workers, which belong to local 47 and include licensed practical nurses and health care aides, have been without a contract since their previous one expired at the end of December 2020.

Negotiations have been very slow, including the employer switching out the members of their bargaining team multiple times.

The employer has asked the workers to enter into a 3-year contract, with a 5¢ an hour increase to shift premiums and a 4.75% wage increase over the entire term of their contract, which would expire at the end of this year anyhow, if accepted.

Currently, the weeknight shift premiums agreed to back in 2018 range from $2.00 to $2.50 an hour, and the weekend shift premiums range from $2.00 to $4.000 an hour, depending on the worker’s role.

Spread out over 3 years, the proposed 4.75% wage increase would average out to 1.58% per year. Inflation in Alberta last year was 6% and 4.8% in 2021. This proposal wouldn’t even be enough to cover the inflation for the first year of the contract, let alone inflation last year and this year.

The workers’ bargaining team countered, asking for a 25¢ an hour increase to shift premiums. They also want a 4-year contract instead of a 3-year one, and asked for a 7.5% wage increase during that same period.

While 7.5% seems way more significant than the 4.75% proposed by Revera, the fact that it’s for an additional year means that it averages out to just 1.88% a year, barely more than what Revera asked for. Like the employer’s proposal, this one will be insufficient for workers to be able to deal with inflation over the last two years, in addition to inflation this year and in 2024.

However, the worker’s bargaining team also proposed raising the floor on wages for several positions.

According to AUPE, dietary aides, companions, activities aides, and receptionists start out at only minimum wage and then move up to between $16.98 and $17.60 after probation. The bargaining team has proposed to bump the starting wage to $15.88, which is what dishwashers start out with. They also want post-probation pay for all the positions to rise to $17.60, rather than just for companions.

Revera agreed with the workers that dietary aides, companions, activities aides, and receptionists shouldn’t be paid less than dishwashers.

However, instead of agreeing to the wage increases, they apparently suggested lowering the wages of dishwashers, claiming dishwashers are “overvalued”.

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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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