I do not think it will make any difference at all.
I have been meaning to provide a brief update as to what is happening with negotiations, so I will use this opportunity to do so.
As everyone likely knows, AHS gave us the most regressive proposals in UNA’s history. They also suggested (not at the table – in speeches and to the media) that major changes will soon take place. It appeared that a significant amount of these changes could involve nursing positions being eliminated.
So we asked for detailed plans. AHS declined and indicated that they do not know the over all plan – that it is all being decided at the local level.
We filed a complaint with the Labour Relations Board. Generally, once negotiations have begun, if a union asks, the employer must provide information about planned layoff as soon as the changes get to the stage of "likely to be implemented." – not once it is finalized, not once it is public – once it is likely to happen.
This is what we asked for and we suggested that even if all decisions are made at the local level, the AHS team is obligated to find out and tell us.
AHS was not at first willing to agree to this – first they were not certain they would be capable of internal communication to that extent. Additionally, they were concerned that if they told us, we would tell our members. That, they believed, could cause fear and panic and could give us time to mobilize and make sure the changes dont get implemented.
We would not agree to keep information from our members or Locals – especially information about likely layoffs. We would not agree to not try and stop plans we didn’t agree with.
Eventually AHS agreed with us and the issue at the Labour Relations Board was resolved. They have committed to providing us with information as soon as it gets to the "likely to be implemented stage." In order to ensure this, we have agreed on monthly meetings so that we will be kept in the loop.
AHS has provided me with some information about changes likely to be implemented. Our negotiating committee has not had a chance to review the material yet so we have not released it (it is not in a very user friendly format.) We will be reviewing it September 25.
We are scheduled to meet again on September 26 and 27. We are in the process of setting additional dates, but AHS appears to be available only for a couple of days a month – much less frequently than normal. There are two schools of thought about this – one being that this is simply not acceptable, and we must get more dates. The other school of thought is that the economic position seems to be improving every month and we are actually better to slow things down and the longer we take the better.
The negotiating committee will be having a very serious discussion about this when we meet.
Finally, there are two other matters. First, the government has hired a into a position of "senior negotiation strategist." This position works for the government, not AHS, but the role is to oversee ALL public sector negotiations (including those with teachers, nurses, etc.) I have met with this individual. He has a long history in labour relations acting for employers and governments. He seemed like a fine fellow to me, (our meeting was just a social meet and greet over supper) but his reputation is that he is no friend of labour and does not believe in a collaborative approach. We will keep in touch.
I have also heard that there will be other changes at AHS, especially regarding HR and labour relations. Some of what I have been hearing does not sound very positive, but we will just have to wait and see.
Watch for more information in late September.
Director of Labour Relations
United Nurses of Alberta