Alberta’s nursing union has voted to ratify a new collective agreement with provincial health providers.
A large majority – 87 per cent – voted in favor of the new agreement during virtual polls this week, according to a news release from the United Nurses of Alberta.
The UNA and Alberta Health Services negotiating units struck a tentative deal last month after a mediator recommended a pay increase of 4.25 per cent over a four-year term.
It follows a lengthy and contentious bargaining process that began in 2020. The province initially sought to cut nursing wages but took it off the table in September last year.
UNA President Heather Smith said part of the shift was a recognition of nursing contributions through the pandemic.
“I think the messaging from our members was important as well: that we go forward, we don’t go back,” she said Thursday.
Terms of agreement
The new agreement is retroactive to April 2020 and runs until March 2024.
In addition to the pay increase, it includes a one-time, lump-sum payment of one per cent for every hour worked in 2021 in recognition of their contributions during the pandemic.
Two annual lump-sum payments, which were a sticking point for AHS, will be added to a wage grid.
Enhanced psychological and mental health supports are also promised in the new agreement, as well as the creation of a union-employer provincial workload advisory committee.
“This is giving us some meaningful place at the table in terms of evidence and discussing and hopefully not… further diluting the quality and the skill level for patients,” Smith said.
In a statement last month following mediation, Finance Minister Travis Toews said the deal will provide labor stability in the health-care system.
“I respect the frontline and unique clinical role nurses have played – and continue to play – during the COVID pandemic,” Toews said. “This deal recognizes their hard work and dedication and the many sacrificed nurses have made since the pandemic began.”
UNA represents more than 30,000 nurses and some other health-care workers. The agreement also covers UNA members who work for Covenant Health, Lamont Health Care and The Bethany Group (Canmore).