Symphony employees vote to strike

A near unanimous vote has put the union representing close to 130 employees at a Red Deer seniors living facility in a strike position.

A near unanimous vote has put the union representing close to 130 employees at a Red Deer seniors living facility in a strike position.

On Wednesday, licensed practical nurses, health-care aides and support staff at Aspen Ridge — represented by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees — voted in favour of strike action.

AUPE president Guy Smith said on Thursday that the employees are committed to giving families 72-hour notice prior to any strike action at the Symphony Senior Living facility at 3100 22nd St.

“It’s not the preferred approach by any means,” said Smith. “We would much prefer to get a negotiated agreement and we will continue negotiations with the employer. But I think the message is very clear that the workers’ frustration level is at the point they will take strike action if necessary.”

In a statement, Kim Van Dam, Symphony Senior Living vice-president of operations, said from Toronto that they are not surprised there has been a vote approving strike action.

“This is a common outcome and it does not mean there will be a strike,” she said.

“We think a strike is not in the interest of our employees.”

The two sides have been negotiating an agreement since 2011 and Van Dam said there has been much progress made in that time. They are scheduled for another mediation meeting on Jan. 16.

Smith said the sticking point in the negotiations so far has been salaries.

“Symphony, a company out of Ontario, has made it clear they want to maintain a 30 to 40 per cent profit margin to make their operation viable,” said Smith, adding the employer refuses to pay staff the industry standard wages.

Van Dam said while there has been general agreement on wages for most of the classifications employed at Aspen Ridge, AUPE is seeking significant pay increases for one classification in particular, about 40 per cent in less than five years for health-care aides.

“Such a pay increase would be unreasonable for most businesses and we need to protect our residents from cost increases,” she said.

“As most residents at Aspen Ridge do not receive any government funding, Aspen Ridge is not in the same market as other facilities with which AUPE is bargaining.”

Symphony receives some funding from Alberta Health Services as well as from the residents.

The union members, if they choose to strike, will offer life and limb support to residents in cases of emergencies. Smith said, while they are mindful of the care that residents at the facility require, it is on the employer to come up with a contingency plan for the residents’ care.

In the statement, Symphony said they are fully prepared in the event of a work stoppage to ensure there is no interruption in services to residents.

The company also owns and operates Symphony Senior Living Inglewood in Red Deer but that facility is not affected by the dispute.

mcrawford@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

Backlog of irregular asylum claims has ballooned to over 28,000

OTTAWA — The backlog of asylum claims from irregular migrants awaiting a… Continue reading

Canada Post asks for halt to international shipments as parcel backlog grows

OTTAWA — Canada Post has asked its international partners to halt mail… Continue reading

Killer wildfire, bar shooting draw Trump to California

WASHINGTON — The killer wildfire in Northern California and the recent country-music… Continue reading

Georgia derailment leads to town’s evacuation

BYROMVILLE, Ga. — A small Georgia town has been evacuated after a… Continue reading

Trump visits as California struggles to locate 1,000 people

PARADISE, Calif. — President Donald Trump heads to Northern California on Saturday… Continue reading

UK leader fights back against critics amid Brexit upheaval

LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May fought back against critics of… Continue reading

Workers at Quebec-run liquor stores begin 3-day strike, shutting down most outlets

MONTREAL — A labour dispute that began with stickers on store windows… Continue reading

Trump’s heated rhetoric not in line with U.S. actions: American senators

HALIFAX — Two outspoken U.S. senators — one Republican and one Democrat… Continue reading

B.C. government to bring lower transgender surgery to the province

VANCOUVER — Gwen Haworth says she always knew her gender identity, even… Continue reading

Action needed to reverse Canada’s wildlife decline, conservationists say

MONTREAL — Canada may be known for its wide-open spaces and wildlife,… Continue reading

Vancouver lawyer who prosecuted Khmer Rouge leaders welcomes genocide verdict

OTTAWA — A Vancouver lawyer who helped prosecute two of the Khmer… Continue reading

Trade war between U.S., China shows no sign of abating amid tough talk at APEC

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea — Leaders from the world’s two biggest… Continue reading

Most Read