Union that represents Alberta health workers prepares for ‘intense’ bargaining

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) is preparing for what it believes will be “the most intense round of collective bargaining the province has ever seen.”

AUPE is Alberta’s largest union and represents 95,000 people working in government, health care, education, boards and agencies, municipalities and private companies.

“Next year, we’ll have 82,000 of our members in collective bargaining,” said AUPE president Guy Smith. “It’s the biggest round of bargaining we’ve ever seen.”

To prepare, AUPE is hosting five bargaining conferences so that members in different sectors can share their priorities before they start discussions with employers.

“When it comes down to it, the demands that employers will see at the table are going to be very similar across the board,” Smith said. “Wage increases, greater job security, better staffing levels — there’s been a short-staffing crisis for a long time — and a lot of other things, but those will be common to pretty much every bargaining table.

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“The key issues facing workers, and particularly AUPE members, on the front lines of public services are common across all of our sectors,” he said.

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Members of AUPE include employees of the government of Alberta and Alberta Health Services.

The conference for members in the health sector took place on Tuesday in Edmonton.

“The conference today is for our public healthcare members, and we’re determined to make gains for licensed practical nurses, health care aides and the general support staff that really keep the health care system running,” Smith said.

“These are our biggest contracts with Alberta Health Services and other health care employers.”

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He said AUPE’s last round of bargaining took place during the pandemic when members weren’t able to gather together and discuss their priorities and responses.

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“The employers, including the government of Alberta, came at us with massive concessions and rollbacks,” Smith said.

This time, he said, the union is making sure members are aware and engaged in plenty of time.

Most contracts expire at the end of March, Smith said, which means the AUPE is hoping to meet with employers in January.

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