Employees at an Innisfail seniors facility will plan a strike vote after their employer rejected an independent mediator’s recommended settlement.
The 115 nursing and support staff had already voted to accept the mediator’s proposal when Sunset Manor/Country Lodge owner Eugene Skoretz turned it down. The owner’s rejection was a surprise, since his bargaining representative worked with the union and mediator to create the report.
“We were very disappointed, and now the workers have been forced into a position where they have to consider job action,” said Dale Perry, staff negotiator with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, which represents the workers. “They don’t want to take this action, but Chantelle has left them no choice.”
“It’s shameful that this employer won’t accept the mediator’s recommendation,” said AUPE Vice-President Carrie-Lynn Rusznak. “These employees are paid as much as 20 per cent below the industry standard, even though Chantelle receives government funding to pay nursing staff at the same rates as AHS employees. On top of that, they have no health benefits and get no sick leave at all.”
The employees are trying to negotiate their first collective agreement. They voted to join AUPE in May, 2013 and began bargaining the following month. When face-to-face negotiations failed to achieve a settlement by November, an independent mediator was called in.
“We aren’t asking for anything unreasonable,” said Perry. “The improvements we sought in the first contract were modest. We’re prepared to work with Chantelle to bring staff wages and benefits gradually in line with the rest of the industry. We have made every effort to be fair and reasonable but have gotten nowhere with this employer.”
The employees’ bargaining committee will meet in the coming days to determine the next steps toward holding a strike vote.
“In the long run,” said Rusznak. “This is about the quality of care at Sunset Manor. There’s very high staff turnover, which leads to a lack of continuity for the residents. The best way to attract and retain good employees is to offer competitive compensation.”
Sunset Manor/ Country Lodge is a 136-bed facility, with some spaces for seniors with dementia. Of those beds, 92 are funded by AHS.
For more information:
Carrie-Lynn Rusznak, AUPE Vice-President: (403) 542-1823
Dale Perry, AUPE staff negotiator: (780) 238-8697
Andrew Hanon, AUPE communications: (780) 932-7644
Posted on Tue, January 7, 2014
by Diane Johnston