We hear you. You want to know what’s happening with wage increases. What did the arbitrator decide at the hearings, which ended on Monday (August 12)?
This is an important issue for the 60,000 members employed by the Government of Alberta (GOA) and by Alberta Health Services (AHS) in Nursing care and General Support Services.
It’s also important for thousands more of our members working for Boards and Agencies and in post-secondary education. In total, up to about 180,000 Alberta workers, members of AUPE and other unions, are affected by Bill 9, the Public Sector Wage Arbitration Deferral Act.
Here’s the latest.
What happened at the arbitration hearings?
On August 7-9 and August 12, the arbitrator heard presentations from AUPE and the employers for the GOA collective agreement and the AHS collective agreement covering Nursing Care and General Support Services.
These hearings took place because AUPE won a court injunction against Bill 9. The court ruled arbitration should continue while a larger court battle over legality of Bill 9 proceeds.
The arbitrator is currently reviewing all the evidence presented. We are now waiting to hear the arbitrator’s decision on whether these members should get a wage increase and, if so, what that increase should be.
We believe we made a strong case that our members deserve a raise after agreeing to a two-year wage freeze for the previous years.
When will the arbitrator’s decision be announced?
That decision cannot be released by the arbitrator until after Aug. 22 at the earliest, but it is likely to take longer than that, based on the amount of evidence the arbitrator has to go through to make the decision.
The Alberta government has applied to the court to temporarily halt the arbitration process. A hearing on the government’s application is scheduled for that day.
At that hearing, if the court agrees with the government, it may order a halt to all arbitration, which means the arbitrator would not be able to provide a decision at that time.
If the court disagrees with the government, the arbitrator may continue with the review and would be able to announce the decision. However, there is no set time for this to be done. We do not know when the decision would be announced.
What happens next?
The legal battle over Bill 9 continues. The next step is for the courts to hear the government’s appeal against our first-round court victory when we got an injunction against Bill 9. That appeal could be heard in a few months.
What happens to our wage increase?
If the arbitrator decides AUPE members deserve a raise, that cannot be implemented until the court case over whether Bill 9 is illegal or not has been completed. This is a process that could take up to a year or more.
If the courts agree with us and decide Bill 9 is illegal, the increases would be paid after the final ruling. All increases would be backdated to April 2019.
If the courts agree with the government and decide Bill 9 is legal, the arbitrator’s decision on raises no longer applies. The union and employers would have to go into a new round of arbitration to decide on wage increases.
What do we do now?
We continue to fight. The court battle is only one part of our campaign. The other part of the campaign is to pile pressure on the politicians and to let Albertans know what is really happening.
Bill 9 is a political decision by the government to attack our constitutional rights, our wages, our working conditions and the delivery of vital services to Alberta.
The government’s attempt to delay arbitration until after a report by its hand-picked “blue-ribbon” panel is simply a ploy, a stalling tactic to allow the government to delay its planned further attacks on workers and services until after the federal election in October.
It’s a political decision to embark on tax hand-outs to profitable corporations costing $4.5 billion over four years while claiming the province is so broke it cannot even think about a modest or fair wage for front-line workers.
It’s a political decision to ask for Alberta workers to pay while corporate elites laugh all the way to the bank.
That’s why we must continue the fight on the streets, as well as in the courts. We must continue to show Albertans how bad Bill 9 is for all of us in this province.
Please join us for information pickets in Edmonton on Thursday (Aug. 15 and Aug. 30) and Lethbridge (Aug. 19). For more details on these events, and to stay tuned to the fight, please visit the fightback page of the website..
Meanwhile, you can download an infographic explaining where we are and what happens next.