Your bargaining committee met for a second round of bargaining with the employer on March 19 and 20, 2015.
As you are no doubt aware, our members in administrative support positions have been locked in a dispute over arbitrary reclassification for the past year. Some individual cases are now advancing to the third-party appeal stage, which we expect will be heard in the next few months.
We, your executive, acknowledge that this has been a drawn-out, frustrating and at times demoralizing situation and we thank all members for their support, resolve and patience while we continue to work toward a resolution. Many of you know the history and details of this situation, but for those who might not, what follows is summary.
Constant state of reclassification
Prior to the formation of Alberta Health Services in 2009, provincial health care was divided into regions, which operated with considerable autonomy, particularly in regard to job classifications and pay scales. Most of the regions were geographic in nature, but one exception was the Alberta Cancer Board, which operated all cancer programs across the province.
In 2008 – 09, just prior to being brought under the control of the provincial health authority (AHS), the cancer board had conducted its own job reclassification process.
In 2010, AHS decided to fold all former cancer board staff into its own job classification system. The process was rushed and based almost entirely on pay grade and current position, with very little analysis of individuals’ job descriptions, expectations and responsibilities compared to administrative staff in other areas of AHS.
In 2013, with little consultation, AHS began reviewing the cancer board members’ new job classifications and by early 2014 began arbitrarily reclassifying them again. Of the 431 employees across the province whose classifications were reviewed. only 33 remained unchanged. One was moved upward, 19 were moved laterally and 391 were moved down in classification, in many cases by multiple levels.
While their pay levels had been red circled, those who were bumped down discovered their wages would be frozen, sometimes for years, until they advanced beyond their previous classification. Suddenly, individuals who had held the same positions at different sites across the province had different classifications. To some, especially in the Calgary zone, it felt like they had been demoted for no justifiable reason.
“It’s extremely frustrating and disheartening for these dedicated workers,” said Erez Raz, Vice-President with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees’ Calgary zone. “They love their jobs but many feel like Alberta Health Services doesn’t value them or the work they do.”
AUPE began the painstaking process of appealing the classifications in 2014. So far, the employer has opposed any rectification. The next stage is a third-party appeal, where a neutral third party hears both sides’ arguments and makes a final ruling. Each case must be heard separately, so it will still take considerable time.
“We are continuing to follow the process,” said Raz. “It can be frustratingly slow and I thank all the members involved for their patience and solidarity. I also want to commend all the members on their professionalism and their commitment to continuing to provide the best possible service to patients during this difficult time.”
We, your executive, will keep you posted on developments and any initiatives taken to help resolve this dispute.
Local 95 OHS Committee was tabling in Calgary to raise awareness about workplace safety during Health and Safety Week.
Following a productive and respectful meeting with AUPE president Guy Smith and other public-sector union leaders March 19, Premier Jim Prentice announced Bill 45, the Public Sector Services Continuation Act, would be abolished immediately.