Provincial board wards off strike

  • Jul. 10, 2013 7:56 p.m.

Late last week, the Province appointed a Disputes Inquiry Board in an effort to ensure a collective agreement is reached between the employer and employees of eight seniors’ care facilities in Alberta owned by Extendicare Canada.

That includes Extendicare Michener Hill in Red Deer.

The one-person Disputes Inquiry Board appointed by Human Services Minister Dave Hancock will review the labour dispute between Extendicare and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE).

“I believe that the parties can benefit from the independent, third-party perspective a Disputes Inquiry Board provides,” Hancock said.

The board is composed of Lyle Kanee, an arbitrator with experience in labour matters.

Kanee’s labour relations experience includes mediating disputes and facilitating complex collective bargaining negotiations. He has been asked to help the parties clarify their issues, so they have another opportunity to reach a collective agreement for 1,200 workers.

If an agreement is not reached in 45 days, the board will report back to the minister with recommendations for a settlement.

The recommendations will be relayed to the parties for their consideration, and later made public.

“I am deeply concerned that a labour disruption would affect health and safety of the residents of these facilities. Their well-being is our primary concern,” said Hancock. “This process gives the parties an additional opportunity to clarify the issues and find an agreeable solution before the dispute escalates, while still maintaining the necessary services for residents.”

The last Disputes Inquiry Board was appointed in June 2012.

Prior to this announcement, it was expected that a strike was to begin Monday at 11 a.m. at the Extendicare worksites.

AUPE, which represents more than 1,200 staff at Extendicare, had served the employer with 72-hour strike notice last week.

AUPE maintains that Extendicare is pushing net earnings rollbacks which means staff take-home pay would go backward; reductions in sick time, meaning staff would be forced to work sick, which is hazardous for them and elderly residents; and the lowest number of named holidays in any health-care agreement in Alberta.

AUPE officials had also planned to write Health Minister Fred Horne to request an independent review of the private sector’s use of public dollars in seniors care in Alberta.

“We are seeing dispute after dispute in private seniors care and it needs to be addressed,” said Kevin Davediuk, AUPE negotiator.

The eight worksites are located in Edmonton, Eaux Claires and Holyrood; Calgary, Ceaders Villa and Hillcrest; Red Deer, Michener Hill; Lethbridge, Fairmont Park; Athabasca and Mayerthorpe.

The worksites control around 1,000 care beds.