AUPE, province reach mediated settlement for Alberta public service employees

After months of mediation, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees has reached a settlement with the government of Alberta.

In a news release Wednesday morning, the union said its government services bargaining committee reached a mediated settlement for a new collective agreement for the 22,000 members who work in government services.

This includes those who work in corrections, sheriffs, trades workers, conservation workers, social services, as well as administrative and support service workers.

The settlement comes after about 20 months of negotiations.

“It’s been a very long process and quite intense at times,” AUPE president Guy Smith said. “Negotiations actually broke down in March and both parties sought the assistance of a mediator.

“I didn’t expect we’d get to this point. We believed that the government was determined to get concessions out of members in terms of wage rollbacks, other benefits, other pay issues.”

The province was seeking a four per cent salary rollback, elimination of paid Christmas closure days and reduction in shift differential pay and weekend premium pay, among other things. At the time, the province said the mandate presented to the union reflected the province’s current economic and fiscal reality.

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The new deal proposes a 1.25 per cent salary increase effective Jan. 1, 2023, followed by a minimum 1.5 per cent salary increase on Sept. 1, 2023, with the potential for an additional 0.5 per cent increase based on economic factors, according to an update on the AUPE website.

The proposed settlement also includes an eight per cent increase for employees performing duties as part of the Rural Alberta Provincial Integrated Defence Response force (RAPID), as a result of “significant expansion of policing duties, responsibilities and risks.” The increase would be retroactive to April 1, 2021.

The settlement would expire March 31, 2024.

“It meets many of our needs in some key areas such as employment security,” Smith said Wednesday morning. “There are some wage increases in the last year of the agreement and basically all the concessions have been pulled off the table.”

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The settlement is subject to a ratification vote, which the union expects to take several weeks. The results of the vote will be released once counted, the AUPE said, adding that’s likely to be in mid-December.

“I want to thank AUPE for their collaboration in helping us achieve labour stability for the public service,” Minister of Treasury Board and Finance Travis Toews said in a statement.

“I respect the hard work and dedication of Alberta’s Public Service employees and look forward to the results of the ratification vote.”

Smith said the union had spent months preparing members for job action, such as a lockout or strike. He said the union is grateful that the government moved its stance.

“I think the fact we had a mediator was very helpful, but I want to also recognize the hard work the government negotiators did, as well as our own negotiating team, to get where we are now, where we’ve got something we can put in front of our members,” he said.

“We had strong resolve that we weren’t going to back down. We certainly weren’t going to accept any concessions and I think they (the government) saw the sense, quite honestly, and I give them credit for this, in making sure that we as a union, our members on the frontlines of government services, are doing what we need to do now, which is supporting Albertans through the pandemic.”

The AUPE is recommending members ratify the settlement.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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