Wage Reopener hearing concludes after two days of witness testimony

The United Nurses of Alberta Negotiating Committee gathered in Edmonton on Dec. 4 and 5, 2019 for the wage reopener arbitration between the union and Alberta Health Services.

The hearing was held to determine the wage increase in the third year of the UNA Provincial Collective Agreement set to expire in 2020. UNA has asked for a 3-per-cent increase and the employer was directed by the provincial government to ask for a 3-per-cent wage rollback.

The Arbitration Board is chaired by arbitrator David Jones and includes employer nominee Lynn Michele Angotti and union nominee David Williams. The board heard witness testimony from UNA Director of Labour Relations David Harrigan, Professional Responsibility Advisor Josh Bergman and economists John O’Grady and Pedro Antunes.

Harrigan presented a historical overview of bargaining over the past three decades, and Bergman spoke about the shortage of nurses in Alberta. Both economists provided technical evidence about the economic situation and forecast in Alberta.

UNA argued that nurses' income has not kept pace with inflation over the course of the past three Provincial Collective Agreements and that, while nurses are the highest paid in the country, the same is true for virtually any other occupation in Alberta compared to other provinces.

The Arbitration Board indicated it would consider the evidence and written briefs from the union and employer. UNA does not expect a decision to be released any sooner than February 2020.

UNA represents more than 30,000 Registered Nurses, Registered Psychiatric Nurses and allied health care workers in Alberta, a significant majority employed in the public sector.