Talks with Alberta Government Stalled, Government Employees Being Undervalued
EDMONTON - AUPE's General Service Bargaining Committee (GSBC) met with the employer Jan. 13,14, 17 and 18 in Edmonton to continue negotiations for a fair collective agreement for approximately 22,000 direct employees of the Alberta government.
Following 23 days of bargaining, the union and employer have reached an impasse, leaving the GSBC to determine any further talks at this point would simply be idle and unproductive.
"The government of Alberta continues to ignore significant and ongoing issues faced by the employees that do the work for them to make this province run smoothly. These employees are being unappreciated and undervalued by their employer and AUPE has every intention of highlighting their worth in their next collective agreement, no matter what it takes," said AUPE president Guy Smith. "Anything less would be unacceptable."
"At the same time Premier Stelmach has publicly stated that he is justifiably proud of the Alberta public service, and that he believes it is the best in the country, his representatives at the negotiating table continue to refuse to address issues such as workload, understaffing and threats of cuts and rollbacks which are severely undermining the level and quality of services Albertans rely upon," Smith said.
"Our members are dedicated day in and day out to providing a large range of services to Albertans when they need them; and to the protection, safety, and security of all citizens, including those most vulnerable and at risk. At the same time they are performing essential roles in building the 'Alberta Advantage' but are being undervalued and disregarded," said Smith.
AUPE negotiator Jim Petrie said the employer's reluctance to change anything in the agreement has led the bargaining committee to consider all options, including meeting with members, mediation, arbitration or other avenues.
"The employer's position is not productive and in direct contrast to what our members have told us they want to see in their collective agreement. We have the support of our members now, and we will have it throughout these negotiations, despite the employer's claim to the opposite," added Petrie.
A series of 15 well-attended town hall meetings for AUPE members were held in November and December where members showed strong support for the GSBC's bargaining positions with the government.
"The government's position continues to be negative and in disagreement to any changes the employer considers an infringement on the rights of management," said Petrie. "Our mandate is to push ahead with our position, this has been made clear to us through contact with thousands of our members."
The union will be meeting with various local bargaining committees province-wide Feb. 3 to give updates and discuss future directions. The GSBC will inform members of the results of this meeting soon after.
"We will continue our commitment made at the town hall meetings to meet with, engage and inform members on the state of negotiations," said Petrie.
Since negotiations began, an agreement in principle has been reached on a number of articles including the 6-and-3 shift scheduling arrangements, the probationary period for new employees and purging disciplinary records.
The agreement between AUPE and the Alberta government is the largest and most complex collective agreement in the province. It is made up of a master agreement covering all government employees and nine subsidiary agreements affecting more than 20,000 employees in each of the nine occupational areas represented by the locals.
The previous three-year agreement expired Aug. 31, 2010, but will continue to be in effect until a new agreement is reached.
AUPE and the GSBC are committed to keeping members informed on the progress of these negotiations.