Alberta nurses accuse province of breach of contract in wage talks

The union has asked to review the delay and replace the arbitrator

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney shakes hands with Travis Toews, President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance after being sworn into office, in Edmonton on Tuesday April 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

The union representing Alberta’s nurses is accusing the province of breach of faith and breach of contract after the government successfully sought a delay in the latest round of wage negotiations.

The United Nurses of Alberta says the province intervened last week to get an arbitration hearing between Alberta Health Services and the union extended.

Finance Minister Travis Toews says the province told the arm’s-length health agency to ask the arbitrator for an extension, which was granted.

Toews says it was prudent thing to do while a government-appointed independent panel looks for ways to save money to get the provincial budget back to balance.

READ MORE: Alberta Health Services, United Nurses of Alberta reach agreement to settle union grievance of nursing staffing shortage

David Harrigan, speaking for the union, says the government and the arbitrator exceeded their authority by delaying the arbitration hearing past the legal deadline of June 30.

Harrigan says the move suggests the province is looking to roll back public-sector salaries, but Toews says there’s been no decision on that and all options are on the table.

The union has asked the Alberta Labour Relations Board to review the delay and replace the arbitrator.

The talks involve a three-year contract that saw nurses take zero per cent pay increases in the first two years with the option to negotiate and go to arbitration in the third and final year.

The Canadian Press

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