In April of 1980, UNA attempted to achieve a settlement at the hospital bargaining table through conciliation. When this failed UNA took a strike vote.
On April 18, 1980, UNA began a legal strike at seventy-nine (79) Alberta hospitals affecting 6,400 nurses. UNA demanded a 33.3% wage increase in the first year; portability of benefits; a Professional Responsibility Committee; and improved scheduling provisions. The AHA offered a 29% wage increase and a letter of understanding regarding Professional Responsibility Committees.
On April 21, 1980, by Order-in-Council of the provincial government, nurses were ordered back to work at 1800 hours on April 21. An Emergency Tribunal was ordered to award a binding settlement. Penalties for failure to comply with the back-to-work order were the same legislated fines as in 1977.
On April 21, 1980, nurses refused to return to work and UNA commenced legal action to challenge the validity of the back-to-work order. During the time that UNA’s counsel was in court arguing the case, negotiations resumed and a negotiated settlement was reached on April 27, 1980.
On April 28, 1980, nurses returned to work with the negotiated settlement which included: a two-year term; a 39.8% wage increase over two years; improved scheduling; a Professional Responsibility Committee; and fifty other contract improvements.
In the 1980 round of hospital negotiations, the AHA tried to proceed to compulsory arbitration for the 3 UNA hospitals covered by the Public Services Employee Relations Act (PSERA)—the Foothills Hospital, the Alberta Children’s Hospital, and the Glenrose Hospital. Under the terms of PSERA’s compulsory arbitration provisions (which were different from the provisions under the Labour Relations Act), a number of issues were declared to be “non-arbitrable”, including a demand for a Professional Responsibility Committee. Had UNA complied with the order to proceed to compulsory arbitration, the three Crown hospitals could not have been awarded a PRC. Because UNA reached a negotiated settlement with the AHA, the three Crown hospitals were included in the AHA’s agreement to put a PRC Article in the hospital provincial collective agreement.
The provincial office of UNA was moved to the Dorchester building on 104th Avenue and 109 Street in Edmonton.
In late 1980, the UNA Calgary office was moved from the Mearns’ basement to 2120 Kensington Road.
Ethier Elected UNA President
At the UNA Annual General Meeting, Margaret Ethier was elected President, an office she was to hold for eight years.