Nurses and teachers in Alberta will not be seeing any wage increases in their current contracts after two arbitration decisions were handed down Friday.
The United Nurses of Alberta, which represents more than 30,000 Registered Nurses, Registered Psychiatric Nurses and allied health care workers in Alberta had been asking for a three per cent wage increase. The Province, on the other hand, was looking for a three per cent wage rollback on behalf of all 61 school boards.
Similarly, the Alberta Teachers’ Association had also been seeking a three per cent wage increase, while the Teachers’ Employer Bargaining Association was asking for a two per cent wage rollback.
In the ruling, chair of the Arbitration Board, David Jones said the decision not to increase or decrease wages was not a political one.
“No change to wage rates is justified in the third year of the current collective agreement, particularly given the prevailing general economic conditions in the province, as well as the current comparative continuity and stability of nurses’ employment and the absence of any relevant other public sector settlements that would indicate either an increase or a decrease to salaries,” said part of the judgment.
According to the ATA, there has been only one wage increase (two per cent) in the last eight years. The President of the association said teachers deserved better.
“It is difficult for me to describe how absolutely frustrated and deeply disappointed I am in this decision,” said Jason Schilling, ATA President. “The Association advanced a very strong argument in arbitration, and I was confident that a modest and reasonable salary increase was possible. Unfortunately, the arbitrator largely ignored the recent history of salary restraint in teacher collective agreements and chose to focus on the state of the Alberta economy.”
President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance Travis Toews said the decision reflects the province’s economic realities and aligns with the government’s desire to address what it calls “Alberta’s spending problem”.
“As the MacKinnon panel identified, public sector compensation accounts for more than half of government expenses and wages are, on average, substantially higher than other large provinces,” said Towes in a statement.
“Correcting wages over time is a critical part of our government’s commitment to get our fiscal house in order. Even with these decisions, fiscal restraint and discipline must continue as we enter into new collective bargaining negotiations in 2020.
“As we said at Budget 2019, there is no new money for public sector raises in the fiscal plan.
The UNA is scheduled to begin negotiations with the employer for the next Provincial Collective Agreement on Jan. 14 and 15, 2020 in Edmonton. The ATA’s current agreement expires on August 31, 2020.
Schilling says the decision will lead to a harder bargaining process on the Teachers’ new collective agreement.
“This result will place even greater pressure on the next round of collective bargaining. We will be seeking a long overdue correction.”
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