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New year, new negotiations

By Maureen Mariampillai, Communications Staff

Jan 29, 2024

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AUPE’s new strategic plan is laser-focused on bargaining, and so are AUPE members.

Controversial opinion: New Year’s resolutions are cool and good. 

Before you roll your eyes, hear us out. Resolutions are goals we set for ourselves. They are meant to take us out of our comfort zone, forcing us to grow, and the significance of the new year helps us stay on track to reach those goals. 

With that in mind, AUPE’s resolution for 2024 is obvious: it’s time to commit to the largest round of bargaining this province has ever seen. The goals associated with that resolution are just as obvious: pay increases, job security, increasing staffing levels, improved benefits and mental health supports. 

Nearly the entire union is entering bargaining with these same demands, and AUPE members across the province will need to organize and stand united to reach our goals. 

“Four out of five members have a collective agreement that expires in the next 12 months,” says Executive Secretary-Treasurer Justin Huseby. "To succeed, we must fight for our shared goals collectively. We must focus our organizational structures and decisions squarely on supporting members at the bargaining table.” 

Vice-President Sandra Azocar agrees. “We must support each other,” she says. “We all have high expectations for this next round of negotiations, and with those expectations comes responsibility. Our employers are not going to just give us what we deserve. We are going to have to take it.” 

AUPE’s updated strategic plan supports these goals. In fact, the new plan is all about bargaining. 

One new and important part of the plan includes sector-wide update sessions. These sessions will bring members together to share their experiences with members of other bargaining units. For example, members working for Covenant Health will join members working for Alberta Health Services, which will allow us to address the issues members experience throughout public health care. By collaborating with each other at sector-wide bargaining sessions, members will help each other work towards the same goals at separate bargaining tables. 

"To succeed, we must fight for our shared goals collectively. We must focus our organizational structures and decisions squarely on supporting members at the bargaining table.”

Justin Huseby, Executive Secretary-Treasurer

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As outlined in the strategic plan, Area Councils will also hold special strategic planning meetings. In addition to being a lot of fun, these meetings are where Local Executive teams can work directly with AUPE staff to develop posters, pamphlets, and other organizing materials. 

AUPE’s is also putting significant resources into finishing our essential services agreements. Many groups of AUPE members need an essential services agreement in place before they can legally go on strike, including members working for the Government of Alberta. A strike is one of the strongest tools we can use to pressure our employers at the bargaining table—even just the threat of going on strike can force employers to give us a fair deal.  

Huseby notes that strikes are not all we have to prepare for: we must also prepare for the possibility of our employers locking us out of our worksites if bargaining does not go their way. 

“Whether it’s a lockout or a strike, AUPE’s defense fund needs to be ready to support members when they need it,” he says. “Having our defense fund and essential services agreements in place is critical to accomplishing our goals in bargaining.” 

But there’s another goal at the heart of our demands: improving the public services all Albertans depend on. 

“We want job security, higher wages and benefits, things all AUPE members deserve,” says Azocar. “Improving our working conditions also improved the services we offer Albertans. Whether it’s fixing potholes, keeping hospitals clean, or caring for our environment, we are able to better help Albertans when we also help ourselves.” 

Azocar also notes the importance of strong public services during challenging economic times. The cost of living has skyrocketed, and the oil & gas industry is not what it once was, making this as challenging a time as any. Through it all, AUPE members support Albertans with the work we do, and our stable employment also helps us support our communities and families. 

“Workers are hit hard when inflation goes up and oil prices go down,” she says. “Many AUPE members have become the ‘breadwinners’ for their families, and yet too many of us still do not make a living wage. We must fight for better.” 

AUPE members are united as never before. We are all walking one path, with one goal, one shared vision, ready to fight for the respect and dignity we deserve. 

Not a bad resolution for 2024, right? 

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