The UCP has lashed into the United Nurses of Alberta union for looking for a seven per cent wage increase during the pandemic and times of fiscal uncertainty.
“Nurses are vital members of our health care system and to the health of Albertans,” said Finance Minister Travis Toews in a statement.
“The United Nurses of Alberta and Alberta Health Services have been negotiating to delay bargaining until March 31, 2021 due to the increasing demands of COVID-19.
“Until (Monday), these discussions have been focused on immediate pandemic supports, so healthcare workers could continue to fight the pandemic without distraction.
“I am disappointed that a deal could not be reached – delaying bargaining would have provided much needed stability for the healthcare system as we continue to focus on the pandemic and keeping Albertans safe.
“Alberta’s nurses are compensated approximately 8.1 per cent more than their Western Canadian peers.”
The UNA issued a statement saying while AHS negotiators continued to press for a delay in bargaining, they refused to agree to two important issues facing the workforce: AHS has refused to halt eliminating nursing positions via attrition during COVID-19 and AHS refused to give an assurance they will not seek more rollbacks when negotiations commence again.
“Clearly AHS and this government are more intent on pursing their agenda of rollbacks and reducing the workforce, even during a pandemic, than assuring a stable workforce to respond to the needs of Albertans,” said UNA President Heather Smith.
“Despite our efforts to inform them, they appear to want to exacerbate the exhausting and unsafe staffing situations nurses confront every shift they work,” she said.
“The fear and devastated morale of the workforce is irrelevant to them.”
Smith said the UNA negotiations team can’t agree to pause negotiations until March 31, 2021.
“The next scheduled bargaining dates are December 14 and 15,” she said.
“The UNA team has made it clear we are available to meet at any time, including weekends.
“With the assurance of stability in other provinces, we are very concerned we will face increasing workforce deficits as Registered Nurses and Registered Psychiatric Nurses who are threatened with massive rollbacks and job insecurity in Alberta seek employment elsewhere,” she said earlier in the day.
Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard