Strathcona County offers new contract after workers reject last one

Last year, workers employed with Strathcona County rejected a tentative agreement reached by the union and the employer. The two parties are presenting a new contract, after having gone to mediation.

Last week, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees published an update on their website indicating that the bargaining team for workers employed by Strathcona County had reached a tentative agreement.

Their previous agreement expired in December 2019, nearly 3.5 years ago.

A previous tentative agreement had been reached in December 2021, but the workers voted to reject it a month later. Ultimately, negotiations broke down and the two parties had to go to mediation earlier this month. They negotiated this new agreement just two days into mediation.

In that rejected agreement, the negotiated wage increases were supposed to be as follows:

1 January 20201% lump sum
1 January 20211% lump sum
1 January 20221.0%
1 January 20231.5%

So, there were 4 years of proposed increases, but the first two increases would be lump sum payments, so they wouldn’t be cumulative.

In other words, if someone was making $20 an hour prior to 2020, they would get an extra 20¢ an hour for all hours worked. However, their pay would reset to $20 an hour in 2021, not $20.20. Same goes for 2022. Basically, they would’ve gotten a 20¢ raise in 2020, then two years of wage freezes.

That would’ve worked out to a functional increase of 2.5% over the 4-year term, or 0.625% a year on average.

The new tentative agreement has the following proposed wage increases:

1 January 20200.5%
1 January 20210.0%
1 January 20221.0%
1 January 20232.5%

That’s a total of 4%, or an average of 1% a year. Definitely better than the previous agreement.

Keep in mind that the consumer price index in Alberta was 140.5 in January 2019. By January 2023, it had climbed to 160.5. That’s an increase of 20 points. In other words, during the life of this contract, inflation in Alberta increased 14.2%. And that’s not including however much it’ll increase prior to the contract expiring in 2024.

So, while the wage increase is more attractive than what it was in the previous tentative agreement, it’s still nowhere close to keeping up with inflation, which was more than triple the new proposed wage increase.

Under the agreement that expired in 2019, workers received a 1.0% increase in their first year, 1.75% in their second, and 1.5% in their final year, for a total of 4.25%.

These workers got a higher combined increase in 3 years under their previous contract than they’d be getting over 4 years with this new one.

Some other changes in the new tentative agreement include the following

  • Increasing the probationary period from 500 hours to 1,000 hours
  • Increasing the shift premium from $1.40 an hour to $1.90 an hour
  • The shift premium would apply to hours worked on stat holidays
  • Regular workers to get 24 hours of family illness leave, and temporary workers to get 16 hours
  • Truth and Reconciliation Day added as a paid holiday

Workers will vote on the new agreement at the end of the month. They can visit the AUPE website for details on location and time.

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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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