Our history, Bill 27:
In March 2003, the provincial government forced the amalgamation of Alberta’s health region bargaining units through its controversial Bill 27. This amalgamation had a tremendous impact on many provincial health care employees, including us.
General support services staff are still feeling the effects of this amalgamation years later.
The bill seriously impacted our job classifications, stripped us of local conditions by forcing rural areas into urban agreements, and reduced the equitable treatment and respect for experience the employer shows us in comparison with others.
It has been more than eight years since Bill 27. An updated version of the bill was introduced in 2009 that brought together all health regions in Alberta into one health superboard and GSS employer, Alberta Health Services.
We all know we are valuable members of Alberta’s health care team. However, Alberta Health Services continues to treat us as second-class employees. This was made abundantly clear as bargaining with AHS began this spring.
The tone of negotiations was set early on in bargaining when an Alberta Health Services negotiator referred to rural parts of the province as the “lower armpit” of Alberta while discussing northern work allowances.
This disrespect has continued with the employer’s inflexible stand against concerns you want addressed in negotiations, and their blatant refusal to engage in reasonable negotiations.
Negotiations break down:
Since March, just three articles have been signed off: terms of the collective agreement (language only), management rights and reporting pay.
On May 31 and June 1, your committee met with the employer to discuss overtime, definitions, posting language and a letter of understanding to create larger FTEs. There were no new signings following discussions.
After a total of 14 days of expensive, time consuming bargaining, little progress has been made. The employer’s lack of willingness to address concerns raised in our surveys to members has left the committee with no choice but to get a third party involved.
On June 14, following less than half a day of talks with the employer, your bargaining committee broke off negotiations. AUPE filed for mediation shortly after.
The GSS bargaining committee and AUPE are determined to get a fair collective agreement that respects the important work we do every day to make and keep Albertans healthy.
We are addressing your concerns and pushing to see language introduced to bring GSS in line with other health sector agreements for nurses and technical workers.
We want to see standardized contracts so we are treated equally. We are requesting stability in hours of work so you can plans things like child care accordingly; and we would like to see timely vacation approvals so you can go to your child’s wedding, tend to your parents or siblings or take the family on a holiday.
Unfortunately, Alberta Health Services is seeking further concessions to hours of work and wants a shortening of the times between shifts to 12 hours, down to as low as 10 hours.
We want to see fair layoff and recall provisions that see employees as the assets we really are. We are looking for consistent northern allowances as well and are pushing for fair benefits and improvements to classifications.
We should have the same rights extended to us that other health sector workers have, we want to see part-time positions combined to create meaningful work and we want to be respected.
Your bargaining committee and AUPE are committed to keeping you informed at every step of the process. Meetings with members in communities around the province will be held this summer with dates and locations to be announced.
Please feel free to contact any member of the negotiation team with your questions, comments or concerns.