United Nurses of Alberta informed Alberta Health Services in bargaining today it will hold a meeting of its Local leadership later this month to discuss options in the negotiations that have seen little progress over recent weeks.
UNA was also alarmed to learn that contrary to AHS’s claim any staffing shortages are short term and a result of summer holidays, the employer plans to address shortages by hiring contract nurses at a higher rate of pay while demanding pay cuts from the nurses it employs.
AHS is in discussions with Toronto-based Greenstaff Medical Canada to recruit Registered Nurses to perform direct nursing care at AHS facilities across Alberta.
“AHS did not disclose anything about this plan in negotiations with UNA, as required by law, despite the fact UNA and AHS have been discussing recruiting strategies with UNA as recently as Tuesday of this week,” said UNA Labour Relations Director David Harrigan.
“It’s outrageous that AHS, acting on the instructions of the Alberta government, is proposing to reduce the compensation of nurses that it already employs, and threatening to lay off hundreds more, while paying more to nurses hired by the Canadian arm of a multinational recruitment agency based in Texas,” Harrigan said.
UNA has learned that Greenstaff Medical has offered to pay nurses it employs to work at AHS $55 an hour for general acute care and up to $75 an hour for ICU and emergency. They will also receive shift differentials, weekend premiums, health care benefits, and a housing allowance. AHS nurses are currently paid between $36.86 and $48.37 per hour.
“This certainly calls into doubt the government’s claim it needs to roll back nursing wages and other benefits to reduce costs in the health care system,” Harrigan said.
At the upcoming meeting, UNA Local leaders will review the current negotiations and consider options moving forward. “Contracting out nursing – at a higher rate of pay – is just the latest in a long string of bad faith bargaining actions in this round of bargaining,” Harrigan said, “It may well be the final straw for many of our members.”
UNA and AHS continue to negotiate essential services levels in the event of job action. Registered Nurses and Registered Psychiatric Nurses last took provincial-wide job action in 1988, with a 19-day illegal strike.
UNA represents more than 30,000 RNs, RPNs and allied health care workers throughout Alberta, the majority employed by AHS.