President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance Travis Toews released a statement on July 6 saying that Alberta can no longer pay nurses their current wages as employers and the United Nurses of Alberta(UNA) begin their negotiations.
The negotiations are taking place with the nurses and employers, including Alberta Health Services (AHS), Covenant Health, Lamont Health Care Centre and Bethany Group (Camrose).
The employers meet with the UNA on July 6 and July 8, after 16 months of being on hiatus due to the pandemic.
“We were shocked to see the Employer, directed by the government, change their proposal this week to add the three per cent salary rollback on top of their already proposed elimination of lump-sum payments – the equivalent of a five per cent wage cut,” said UNA in a statement after their July 8 negotiations.
“As we move beyond the peaks of the pandemic and into a more manageable period, we need to continue the important work of getting the province’s finances back on track,” said Toews.
“On average, Alberta nurses make 5.6 per cent more than in other comparator provinces,” said Toews.
“This costs Alberta approximately $141 million per year at a time when our finances are already stretched,” he said.
“AHS is offering job security to nurses, despite record unemployment in the province due to the pandemic,” he said.
“The responses we've had from members feels like being kicked in the gut. (They are asking) when is the strike vote?” said UNA president Heather Smith, according to CTV.
In the Grande Prairie area, the UNA Local 37 represents RNs and RPNs working at the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, Grande Prairie Care Centre and Northern Addictions Centre.
The local branch UNA did not respond at the time of publication for comment.
UNA and the employers were due to meet again this week.
Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News