Nurses’ union files labour complaint of AHS plan to transfer 3,200 people to Recovery Alberta

United Nurses of Alberta filed an unfair labour practice complaint with the Alberta Labour Relations Board this week, alleging “bad faith bargaining” and interference with the union’s representation of its members in the wake of Alberta Health Services (AHS) negotiations for a new Provincial Collective Agreement.

The union says its complaint was prompted by the province’s plan to create Recovery Alberta, a new provincial addiction, mental health, and correctional services agency.

UNA claims AHS failed to negotiate in good faith when it planned to transition around 3,200 people — about 10 per cent of the union’s membership — to the new employer, saying their rights under the current collective bargaining agreement were not respected.

Under the present agreement between UNA and AHS, members have the right to choose whether or not to transfer to the new employer should services be transferred, as is the current case with Recovery Alberta’s creation, the union says.

“The provincial government has stated that the plan for Recovery Alberta has been done in collaboration with AHS and front-line workers, yet no consultation or information was shared with UNA and no bargaining occurred with UNA regarding the transition,” the complaint states. “The ‘transfer’ was announced publicly on April 2, 2024, concurrently with when it was announced to UNA.”

READ MORE: Alberta creates groups to support mental health addictions as part of healthcare ‘focus’

The complaint, filed on Monday in Edmonton, also says AHS interfered with the UNA’s representation of its members by telling AHS employees directly about the transfer before negotiating how the transfer would go ahead with the union.

“This undermines the role of the union as exclusive bargaining agent with respect to its members, and interferes with the union’s ability to effectively represent their members,” the complaint adds.

UNA is now asking for an order telling AHS to stop directly communicating with their employees on their transfer to Recovery Alberta, and an order requiring AHS to bargain in good faith.

The union is requesting these measures be implemented immediately.

Also request by the UNA is a declaration that AHS violated the Alberta Labour Relations Code, an order giving the union and its members general damages resulting from AHS’ alleged interference with the union’s representational rights and the members’ right to be represented, and an order that AHS posts notices for employees that set out the board’s orders on the matter.

The province previously said there would be no changes to terms and conditions of employment for AHS addiction and mental health workers transitioning to Recovery Alberta.

It also said there would be no changes to grants or contracts for service providers currently under agreement with AHS once Recovery Alberta is established.

In a statement to CityNews, Mental Health and Addiction press secretary Hunter Baril, says the government values nurses and their professionalism in delivering healthcare to Albertans, but the ministry can’t comment on ongoing bargaining issues “as those are best dealt with between the United Nurses of Alberta and Alberta Health Services.”

“We are hopeful that the parties will negotiate an agreement that respects nurses and provides for the best environment to continue delivering excellent health care,” he added.

The ministry says frontline employees aren’t being moved until July, which was done intentionally to allow more time for consultation.

“It is our intention that frontline employees see no impacts to their current terms and conditions of employment,” Baril said. “We look forward to working with Recovery Alberta, Alberta Health Services, and health care employees and their respective unions on the best approach to ensure stability through transition.”

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