About 100 nurses and supporters turned out for the information picket organized by the United Nurses of Alberta outside Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre on Wednesday. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

Province, nurses reach agreement on essential services, to enter formal mediation

The province and the United Nurses of Alberta have reached an agreement on essential services but have applied for formal mediation to help reach a full collective agreement.

The UNA said Thursday that to help facilitate the formal mediation process under Section 65 of the Alberta Labour Relations Code they agreed to Alberta Health Services terms on essential services.

“We withdraw our proposals regarding staffing plans and agree to your proposals in their entirety,” read an email from UNA director of labour relations David Harrigan to AHS Senior Negotiator Raelene Fitz.

“This applies not just to the Royal Alexandra, but to all of the staffing plans across the province.

“As a result, we have now reached an agreement on essential services.”

The local presidents’ instructions to their bargaining committee however made it clear that rollbacks in member pay and long-established provisions of the collective agreement are not acceptable.

Alberta Minister of Treasury Board and Finance Travis Toews said the two groups will now apply to the Alberta Labour Relations Board for joint mediation.

“Mediation is a normal part of the negotiation process and is a step forwards toward a settlement and long-term labour stability,” Toews said.

“It is clear the two parties want to reach an agreement and it is important that this happen quickly.

“I am confident that formal mediation will be productive as the two parties work collaboratively towards a deal that respects both the expertise of Alberta’s nurses and the province’s financial situation.”

In a UNA release, Harrigan said that the bargaining history between AHS and UNA shows an established track record of making significant progress through formal mediation. He added the UNA is hoping for a timely resolution in mediation.

“But even if it does not lead to an agreement, it will allow the parties to exercise their strike or lockout rights,” Harrigan said.