Negotiating committees for United Nurses of Alberta and Alberta Health Services have signed an important Memorandum of Understanding on COVID-19 measures and bargaining, including pay for employees who are required to self-isolate retroactive to July 6, 2020.
In addition to acknowledging the pressure COVID-19 has placed on the health care system and agreeing to schedule no further bargaining for a new Provincial Collective Agreement until after March 31, 2021, the parties agreed to continue job security provisions in the current collective agreement until the same date.
The employer also agreed to suspend “attendance awareness” programs until March 31.
The MoU includes significant additional supports and protections for UNA members and recognizes the unprecedented pressures on the system caused by increased demand for service and a decrease in available staffing due to quarantine and self-isolation requirements.
Important paid leave provisions for employees will be as follows:
- Symptomatic employees without a confirmed workplace exposure are expected to take a COVID-19 test and will be paid sick leave for any regularly scheduled shifts for the duration of their illness or for the applicable isolation period, whichever is later. Employees who exhaust their sick leave bank will be able to apply for short-term disability or long-term disability, the normal elimination periods for which have been waived.
- Symptomatic employees with a confirmed workplace exposure who experience illness, whether regular or casual employees, will be able to apply for Workers Compensation under the provisions of the collective agreement.
- Asymptomatic employees under quarantine are also expected to take a COVID-19 test, and will be eligible to be paid the basic rate of pay for all regularly scheduled shifts for the duration of the 14-day quarantine period, retroactive to July 6, 2020. This provision does not apply for employees who are required to quarantine because of non-essential international travel.
- Asymptomatic employees impacted by work restrictions and orders by the Medical Officer of Health affecting their site, unit or office will be eligible for a number of measures to make up for missed regularly scheduled shifts or be compensated for them.
Members seeking payment or requesting reinstatement of previously coded sick leave retroactive to July 6, 2020 will need to submit a request to their manager. Requests must identify the specific shifts and are subject to validation.
In addition, employees will be entitled to one day of paid leave and additional unpaid leave to meet family responsibilities to care for family members who are ill or required to self-isolated, or for children impacted by school or day care closings.
Other provisions include rules for redeployment of employees to other worksites, distribution of information about mental health supports available to employees, and a commitment by the employer to make all reasonable efforts to grant requests for time away from the workplace including ad hoc vacation and personal leave.
The parties also agreed that non-essential travel is strongly discouraged while emergency measures and travel advisories remain in place.
Other provisions of the MoU allow the employer to offer employees covered by the agreement to convert their status to Benefit Eligible Casual Employee (BECE), to offer increases in employee FTEs on a temporary basis, and to offer temporarily vacant FTE to employees in the unit or office without the normal requirement to post.
During Phase Zero and One of the vaccination program, employees who attend a vaccine appointment outside regular work hours will be paid one hour at the applicable rate of pay.
The MoU covers all employees represented by UNA of AHS, Covenant Health, Lamont Health Care Centre and The Bethany Group (Camrose).
UNA members are encouraged to read the full MoU, a copy of which is posted with this summary on UNA’s website, UNA.ca. Employees who encounter problems related to provisions of this MoU should contact their Local Executive or UNA Labour Relations Officer.
The MoU has been ratified by UNA’s Executive Board.