Alberta Finance Minister and Health Care Provider Want to Cut Nurses’ Wages – Eckville Echo
Alberta government wants to cut nurses’ wages by three percent to help control spending, and union leader who represents nurses says it’s a blow to already low morale due to COVID pandemic -19.
“We have seen our leaders in tears talking about the working conditions, the understaffing, the compulsory overtime going on, the physical and psychological exhaustion their members are feeling,” Heather Smith, President of the United Nurses of Alberta, said declared Wednesday.
The pay cut proposed by Health Minister Travis Toews and Alberta Health Services is part of ongoing contract negotiations with the union, which represents approximately 30,000 public sector nurses.
The union said the setback on top of the health care provider’s other demands, including reduced shift and weekend premiums, would result in an overall reduction in wages of at least five percent.
In a statement Tuesday night, Toews said the province needed to get its finances back on track as it moved beyond the pandemic.
“The need to align wages with those of other major provinces does not diminish our deep respect for the exceptional work and dedication of public sector workers,” said Toews.
“It simply reflects our fiscal reality and that which many sectors of the province have experienced. “
Toews also said that nurses in Alberta earn 5.6 percent more than in the other provinces used as a comparison.
“It’s costing Alberta about $ 141 million a year at a time when our finances are already strained,” he said.
“The past 16 months have put tremendous pressure on the province, following already high levels of debt and deficit. “
Smith acknowledged that nurses are paid better in Alberta, but added that average weekly earnings in Alberta for all occupations are 15 percent higher.
“Cabinet ministers in Alberta are paid between 15 and 22 percent more than their counterparts in comparable provinces,” Smith said.
“I don’t think that’s a particular justification for wanting to insult 30,000 nurses or insult healthcare workers in general.”
Alberta Health Services recently established a team to review recruitment and retention in parts of the province.
“Why would the government lead them, knowing there are staff shortages and problems across the province … to further insult a demoralized and exhausted workforce?” Smith asked.
Both sides are expected at the negotiating table on Thursday, she added.
AHS declined to comment on the negotiations and addressed questions to the finance minister’s office.
Karen Kuprys, secretary-treasurer of the Alberta Federation of Labor, said in a statement that the proposed cuts would lead to worsening shortages, increased wait times and difficulty attracting and retaining future nurses.
“The cuts and potential layoffs proposed at the bargaining table are insulting at best. At worst, it’s unwise, ”said Kuprys, who is also a registered nurse.
“This is not a new strategy. We have felt the long-term detrimental effects of the government’s (former Prime Minister Ralph) Klein’s legacy. The damage it causes takes decades to recover. “
The provinces have also been in bitter conflict with doctors for over a year.
In early 2020, Health Minister Tyler Shandro used a law passed months earlier by the United Conservative government to unilaterally tear up a framework agreement with the Alberta Medical Association and tried to change the way doctors are paid for their services.
In March, the 11,000 doctors represented by the medical association refused to ratify an agreement in principle. They cited mistrust of the government as a key factor.
—Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press
Salary cut at Nures