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The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) has joined in the labour spat between the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) and Alberta Health Services (AHS) after a proposed delay to labour negotiations for June was rejected.

“On March 12, Alberta Health Services (AHS) approached your General Support Services negotiating team and proposed we extend our Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), which expires March 31, until June 30, 2021,” said the AUPE in a press release.

“Your team has rejected AHS’s proposal to extend the MOA. We are telling AHS we want to get back to the bargaining table.”

Last month, the AUPE continued collective bargaining negotiations with the Alberta government, asking for $200 million more in public sector wages amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ministry of Finance once again praised frontline health care workers and support staff for their tireless fight to combat COVID-19 and keep Albertans safe. 

“I’m thankful for their efforts, and I know all Albertans are, too,” said Finance Minister Travis Toews.

However, the government argues they have exhausted resources focusing on their pandemic response, resulting in the proposed bargaining extension by AHS with continued job security, isolation pay, additional paid leave and other benefits for its health care employees, alleviating prior concerns by the UNA on the AHS not committing to not legislate rollbacks during the pandemic.

“Our collective agreement expired on March 31, 2020. Since then, and since the pandemic began, we have agreed to delay bargaining in order to guarantee job security for members,” the AUPE said. 

“But with this new proposal, AHS wants to extend job security and delay bargaining for just another three months. Your negotiating team believes GSS members deserve better than that.” 

Toews expressed his disappointment on the AUPE turning down the COVID supports and protections for its members by shifting focus away from the pandemic and to their labour demands.

“We’ll remain focused on what matters most to all Albertans – our continued response to the pandemic and the rollout of our vaccination program,” he said.

The AUPE continued its committment to “working together, collectively and in solidarity” with its members to ensure gains and “prevent the losses that this government seeks to impose.”  

They claim fairer contracts will better protect the health care system and keep it afloat during the pandemic.

Dhaliwal is a Western Standard reporter based in Edmonton

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