After 16 months of bitter negotiations, Alberta has ratified a new contract with nearly 22,000 frontline employees.
Following a mail-in ballot count at the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) headquarters in Edmonton, the new four-year collective agreement came at a tumultuous time for labour and government relations, the union said.
“We’re pleased a negotiated agreement was reached that both sides find acceptable,” said Guy Smith, AUPE’s president. “Given the recent history of these negotiations and the creation of Bill 46, being able to vote on this agreement is a victory for our members.”
The hotly-contested Bill 46 was recently shot down in court after the union denounced it as a breach of basic rights. Otherwise known as the Public Salary Restraint Act, the legislation would have introduced a two-year pay freeze, followed by a one per cent increase in each of the final two years for public sector workers, whilst removing their right to binding arbitration. Had the government and AUPE not reached an agreement, the legislation was slated for effect in March. A judge said the legislation had serious damage potential for the state of labour relations in the province.
But after signing this most recent contract at the end of June, public sector staffers will see improvements to wages, vacations and indemnity protection. They will also get an increase in shift and weekend premiums as well as improved overtime provisions. The agreement also provides full recourse to members facing harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
“The road to get here was rough, but through it all, AUPE members stood strong in the face of some unprecedented challenges,” Smith added. “They should be proud.”
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