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Seniors’ care staff return to work

Seniors’ care employees at Symphony Senior Living Aspen Ridge are back on the job today after ratifying their first collective agreement on Saturday.

A tentative agreement between the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees and Symphony Senior Living, the Ontario-based company that runs Aspen Ridge, was reached early Friday morning in Calgary.

About 130 AUPE members voted in favour of the contract on Saturday.

The strike/lockout began last Monday at 1 p.m.

Health care aide Tina Larsen was among the group of about 20 AUPE members who returned to the facility on Saturday at 5 p.m. to wave flags and wear placards announcing they were returning to work.

“I’ve been here nine years this October and it was worth it,” said Larsen about the strike after the celebratory walk.

“I’m happy to go back and see my residents. I miss them dearly. I can’t wait to get back to see them.”

She said it’s hard going on strike, but support from residents in the facility, their family members and the public who drove by honking and waving helped a lot.

“Without that, we couldn’t have done it. It was wonderful.”

AUPE was able to significantly improve compensation and working conditions. Wages will be brought up to the industry standard by the end of the agreement, increasing compensation for licensed practical nurses by 18.4 per cent, health care aides by 38.3 per cent, and support employees by 17.2 to 18.2 per cent, depending on the classification.

“Health care employees shouldn’t be paid less simply because they are working for a private contractor – Albertans’ medical needs demand the same level of experience and professionalism whether it is a private or public facility,” said AUPE president Guy Smith.

Symphony, a privately owned and operated seniors care facility located at 3100 22nd St., has 152 suites with a total of 157 residents.

Symphony has been contracted to provide 49 care beds for Alberta Health Services but recently announced its cancelling that contract over the coming year. Those beds include 40 assisted-living beds for dementia patients, four assisted-living beds for non-dementia patients and five transition beds for people coming out of hospital.

“These disruptive labour disputes are an obvious side effect of the Alberta government’s policy to privatize seniors care and Alberta Health Services’ refusal to make contractors spend the money they are given for employee wages on wages,” Smith said.

LPNs and health care aides will receive a $1,500 signing bonus while support employees receive $1,200.

AUPE also negotiated workplace rights for employees including just cause provisions, access to a grievance procedure, and seniority rights that will provide structure and fairness in the workplace.

The agreement expires on Jan. 31, 2016.



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