Alberta Health Services has informed United Nurses of Alberta it will immediately begin working with three staffing agencies to hire contract nurses to address severe staffing shortages in Alberta hospitals.
In an email to UNA Labour Relations Director David Harrigan Friday, AHS Lead Negotiator Kim LeBlanc notified the union that “as is our current practice and allowed by the collective agreement, AHS will use contracted resources to address short-term contracting issues” during the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The agencies are Toronto-based Greenstaff Medical Canada, Northern Nursing Solutions of Airdrie, and Brylu Staffing of Vancouver, the email said.
As a result, LeBlanc said, AHS is withdrawing its August 16 Labour Relations Board complaint against UNA.
AHS alleged in the complaint the union bargained in bad faith by making public statements that AHS was in discussions with Greenstaff Medical Canada and other third-party recruiters to hire Registered Nurses to work in Alberta at rates significantly higher than those paid under the UNA collective agreement with the employer.
A bargaining update published by UNA on August 13 made specific reference to pay rates included in postings by Greenstaff Medical Canada.
In addition to withdrawing the LRB complaint, AHS committed to disclosing to UNA that it is in contract discussions with Greenstaff Medical Canada and other agencies and that it will disclose to UNA when a contract with any of the agencies has been reached.
The email did not indicate the rates AHS expects to pay the staffing agencies for contract nurses.
UNA nurses have not received any pay increases for the past five years and will continue to press the employer in negotiations to begin to take negotiations seriously for Registered Nurses and Registered Psychiatric Nurses, and to address the chronic staffing crisis faced by Alberta health care facilities.