Employees of the Symphony Senior Living facility in Aspen Ridge are back to work after reaching a collective agreement this past Saturday.
About 130 seniors care employees walked off the job at the 154-bed centre located at 3100 22nd St. on Jan. 28th.
The members of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees ratified the agreement in a vote last Saturday. A tentative agreement between the union and employer was reached last Friday.
The strike began after AUPE representatives negotiated with the employer, but talks failed when Ontario-based Symphony Senior Living who operates Aspen Ridge, demanded the right to terminate any employee without cause, officials have said.
“Unfortunately our members had to go on strike to obtain industry standard wages. That is becoming more and more common in seniors’ health care as the government closes beds in public facilities and contracts the services to private, for-profit companies,” said AUPE staff negotiator John Wevers.
AUPE was able to improve compensation and working conditions. Wages will be brought up to the industry standard by the end of the agreement, increasing compensation for Licensed Practical Nurses by 18.4%, Health Care Aides by 38.3%, and support employees by 17.2 to 18.2%, depending on the classification. LPNs and HCAs will receive a $1,500 signing bonus while support employees receive $1,200 (both bonuses prorated to hours worked).
“These disruptive labour disputes are an obvious side effect of the Alberta government’s policy to privatize seniors’ care and Alberta Health Services’ refusal to make contractors spend the money they are given for employee wages on wages,” said AUPE President Guy Smith. “Health care employees shouldn’t be paid less simply because they are working for a private contractor – Albertans’ medical needs demand the same level of experience and professionalism whether it is a private or public facility.”
AUPE also negotiated important workplace rights for employees including just cause provisions, access to a grievance procedure, and seniority rights (calculated according to date of hire) that will provide structure and fairness in the workplace.
“The workplace will now have rules to ensure hours are awarded fairly by a process that is transparent and understandable. That was a top priority our members identified and I’m happy to say AUPE delivered on it,” said Wevers.
The agreement expires on Jan. 31, 2016.