After a long, tedious process with years of delays because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Health Sciences Association of Alberta announced its members, who are employed by AHS, have reached a new tentative agreement.
Of the members who voted, 85 per cent agreed to accept a tentative agreement reached in late June including a 4.25 per cent pay increase.
The union has operated without a contract for two years because of the pandemic, so the new agreement is retroactive to April 1, 2020 and is in effect until March 31, 2024.
The new contract will affect 20,000 of the 29,000 healthcare workers including respiratory therapists, paramedics, communication officers, and laboratory workers.
Some people not included are some members of catholic hospital workers, private workers, and for-profit ambulances.
Despite the agreement being agreed upon, it wasn’t easy, Mike Parker the president of HSAA said.
“Our bargaining committee has been in intense discussions with this government for the last 18 months, it's absolutely ridiculous how long this took. It’s disappointing that it wasn’t AHS that was able to bring the deal to the table, it was instead the influence of our provincial government who paid no respect to the front-line health-care workers.”
Initially, the government wanted to roll back wages of 10 per cent to social workers and other health-care professionals, despite the larger work load from the pandemic.
“Our folks have been on the front-line through COVID and have sacrificed everything, to be available to keep Albertans safe, and that respect was not reciprocated by this government. But our folks were focused on taking care of Albertans and keeping focus on what they do best”, Parker added.
With the new agreement, workers will see increases of one per cent retroactive to Oct. 1, 2021, 1.25 per cent on Sept. 1 of this year and two per cent on April 1, 2023, for all members covered by the agreement for a total of 4.25% increase in the coming four years.
Parker said while the agreement is done, no one is ecstatic about it.
“This will do nothing to help recruiting, retention, and it’s a slap in the face for our members”.
There has been a global and local pursuit of finding health care professionals and they don’t exist Parker states.
Companys will need to start acting like preferred employers if they want employees, Parker says.
Many healthcare workers are unable to take time off, who can’t go home because of forced overtime, the pay hasn’t kept up with the amount of work or inflation which creates a low want to go into health care Parker says.
Parker ended by saying “this is nowhere near over and they’re 18 months from re-opening and the work begins now. As we prepare for the next round of bargaining against an employer and government that recognizes the sacrifices these workers have given to Albertans”.
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