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The big bargaining roundup

AUPE members must unite and take action to win the agreements we deserve.

May 30, 2024

By Terry Inigo-Jones, Communications Staff

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More than 82,000 AUPE members are now bargaining for new collective agreements. Although all these members do vastly different jobs, bargaining has shown they have at least one big thing in common: Their employers don’t respect them. 

“When you look at how negotiations are going at all these bargaining tables, a clear picture emerges,” says AUPE Vice-President Curtis Jackson. “Whether you’re working in health care, government services, education, or with boards and agencies, your employers are presenting a united front and making offers that can only be described as insulting.” 

AUPE members have been offered the same horrible proposals whether they work for Alberta Health Services (AHS), Covenant Health, the Government of Alberta (GOA), or a post-secondary institution. Their employers want a four-year deal with only 7.5% in total wage adjustments over four years, from 2024 to 2027. 

That works out to a 1.88% raise per year, on average, which is nowhere near enough to catch up with skyrocketting costs of living and interest rates. 

"Your employers are presenting a united front and making offers that can only be described as insulting.”

Curtis Jackson, AUPE Vice-President

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“Many workers have seen years of wage freezes in their last two collective agreements,” says Jackson. “When inflation is factored in, some members have seen a drop of more than 17% in the value of their wages in the last seven years. Accepting the latest offer as would see them fall even further behind.” 

If the lowball wage offers weren’t bad enough, some employers are seeking rollbacks, including: 

  • Cuts in pay for some job classifications;  

  • Reducing time off between shifts; 

  • No retroactive pay for former employees; and  

  • Restricting temporary staff from applying for new positions. 

“If you’re working in health care, for continuing-care operators, in corrections facilities, in social services or even wildland firefighting, your employers seem to have little respect for you of for the work you do,” says Jackson.  

“They simply do not care what you’ve all been through in the last few years. We provided vital services during a global pandemic, are constantly working short, trying to do more with less, all while we can’t afford groceries and pay bills like we used to.”

Curtis Jackson, AUPE Vice-President

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Jackson adds: “Our employers are making the same offers because they are taking queues from the Government of Alberta. We know the government is interfering in public-sector bargaining. Away from the bargaining table—where negotiations should take place between employers and union members—the government has created secret mandates that employers must follow.” 

The employers’ united front isn’t all bad news, though, according to Jackson. While AUPE members may be at different stages in the bargaining process, never before have so many groups of members been at the bargaining table at the same time.  

“There’s a tremendous opportunity here for AUPE members to show their employers that we, too, are united,” says Jackson. “We will support each other across different sectors and different employers. Solidarity must not be limited to one bargaining unit or one employer, it must be spread to include all members seeking better contracts." 

Indeed, with more than 250,000 total public-sector workers bargaining in Alberta, there are opportunities to expand solidarity beyond AUPE borders. 

 

“In all the vastly varied work we do as AUPE members, we are vital to keeping this province running. When we speak with one voice, we have a very loud voice—a voice that is impossible to ignore.”

Curtis Jackson, AUPE Vice-President

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“Imagine the power we have by working together,” says Jackson. “We’ve never before seen a team that has nurses and sheriffs; support workers and social workers; college administrative staff and corrections officers; health-care aides and IT workers; all of them pushing for the same goal at the same time.” 

He adds: “In all the vastly varied work we do as AUPE members, we are vital to keeping this province running. When we speak with one voice, we have a very loud voice—a voice that is impossible to ignore.” 

AUPE members across the province are fighting for four key issues in bargaining. These are: 

  • Higher wages; 

  • Increased job security; 

  • Solutions to workload and working-short issues; and 

  • Better benefits to protect health and safety.  

Jackson warns that employers will seek to divide and conquer us during bargaining, but we must avoid falling into this trap. 

“They will try to single out some bargaining units and pressure them to accept unfair deals. They will then use this to pressure other workers to accept similarly bad deals,” he says. 

“They think we’re like dominoes. If one bargaining unit falls, they expect all of them to fall. I prefer to think of us as bricks, built into a solid, unbreachable wall.” 

"Our employers and this government won’t give us what we deserve unless we fight for it. Solidarity is how we win that fight, using our collective strength as a source of power.”

Curtis Jackson, AUPE Vice-President

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AUPE is working harder than ever to build up that wall. More than 50 bargaining town hall meetings are being held across the province in June. You can find the town halls happening near you here: https://aupe.org/news-and-publications/campaigns/time-action-town-halls

The town halls aren’t divided by employer or sector. They are for all AUPE members to come together and talk about how to win the collective agreements we deserve. 

It’s important that all AUPE members stay informed as negotiations continue. Please ensure your contact information is up to date. If you have not created a MyAUPE account, you can do that here: https://aupe.org/user/register

“It has become clear that our employers and this government won’t give us what we deserve unless we fight for it,” says Jackson. “Solidarity is how we win that fight, using our collective strength as a source of power.”

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