Supreme Court Decision
In April, 1992, the Supreme Court of Canada, in a 4-3 decision, ruled against UNA’s appeal of the criminal contempt convictions arising out of the 1988 hospital nurses’ strike.
UNA renegotiated most of its Collective Agreements in 1992. The hospital provincial Collective Agreement and the Royal Alexandra Collective Agreement were very lengthy negotiations – one settled in June and the other not until December. Health Unit negotiations were also laborious and in all settlements the wage increases were moderate. The hospitals settled with a 3% increase in the first year and a 1.5% increase in the second year. Health Units received 3% in the first year and 2% in the second. Other significant gains included letters of understanding in the hospital Collective Agreements that provide job protection for nurses when employers merge hospitals and move units from one site to another; anti-harassment policies which recognize the value of maintaining workplaces free of harassment; and lists of casual employees which will enable the Union to track the employers’ use of casuals to fill vacancies rather than creating permanent jobs. The Alberta West Central Health Unit now had the Rand Formula in their Collective Agreement – the only UNA Local which did not have the automatic deduction of Union dues. The Northwestern Health and Social Services Board gained a combined Professional Responsibility and Occupational Health and Safety Committee. Negotiations also took place for the Red Cross, the Central Park Lodges, the Extendicares and the Chantelle Managements.
1992 was a year in which UNA did a record number of arbitrations with a significant number of wins. Monitoring and strengthening the Collective Agreements continued to be a full-time activity for all UNA Locals, elected leaders and staff.
Phase I of the computerization process was completed in 1992. This included the automation of both the UNA Provincial Office in Edmonton and the Southern Alberta Regional Office in Calgary, and the introduction to the network of the first remote users – the UNA Executive Board members and the 16 Locals with over 200 duespayers. Members of the UNA Executive Board, the UNA staff and the 16 Locals have now received computers and basic computer education.
In June, UNA held its first Labour School in over ten years. The two-day School was held at Mount Royal College in Calgary with approximately 200 participants. Topics addressed included the structure and funding of medicare in Canada; future directions for medicare and the impact on nursing; stress and conflict handling; contract interpretation; Local administration; political action; QWL/team concept; and individual employment rights. The Labour School was welcomed enthusiastically by participants and received high praise on the evaluations.
UNA Video/UNA History
In 1992, UNA developed a number of educational documents including UNA History, UNA Structures and UNA Roles and Responsibilities. The production of a UNA Orientation Video was met with membership enthusiasm and support.
The Southern Alberta Regional Office
In July, the UNA office in Calgary moved to larger and more efficient offices in the same building as previously.
The Provincial Nursing Action Plan
UNA has been involved in The Provincial Nursing Action Plan in an attempt to have the voices of nurses heard by provincial planners. When UNA received the draft copies of the PNAP Committee Reports we wrote a brief critiquing the shortcomings and failures of the reports. UNA clearly told PNAP that we could no longer participate in the process if our concerns were not addressed adequately. UNA’s participation in the process is currently under review.
Regionalization, Mergers and Satellite Units
The Alberta Department of Health embarked upon a complete re-structuring of health care in the province. These plans included regionalization schemes which would see the disappearance of Boards of Trustees and the establishment of regional boards to administer the delivery of health care in an entire region. These plans also included the merger of large urban hospitals under the administration of a single incorporated board. A final set of plans called for the administration of specialty services such as pediatrics, oncology, geriatrics and mental health on a satellite unit plan. For example the northern children’s health care services would be administered from the University of Alberta premises but many of its beds would be at the Royal Alexandra, the Misericordia, the Sturgeon and the Grey Nuns’ Hospitals.
UNA helped organize a committee of health care unions to analyze and critique these government plans. The resignation of the premier and the subsequent leadership race resulted in a freezing of all government regionalization initiatives. With the appointment of a new Minister of Health, UNA waited to see how the Department of Health would proceed.
Mergers, however, continued, and UNA was very active in identifying and addressing the problems that such mergers created. The UNA Executive Board approved the hiring of a researcher to study the far-reaching implications of employer mergers including the question of the effects on the internal culture of UNA; the question of which unions represents merged staffs; the question of which Collective Agreement applies; and the question of seniority rights.
1992 continued to see increasing numbers of position eliminations and layoffs. Across the province job security for nurses was not strong.
QWL/Team Concept Programs
1992 saw the introduction of QWL/team concept programs in many UNA worksites. These were very dangerous and damaging programs, and UNA identified this as an area for education and action.
1992 UNA Annual General Meeting
In October, the UNA Annual General Meeting was held at which Heather Smith was acclaimed UNA President for a further two-year term.
Alberta Court of Appeal
In November, judges at the Alberta Court of Appeal found that the $400,000 fines levied against UNA in 1988 criminal contempt proceedings were not excessive. This ruling was an endorsement of an unprecedented attack against workers’ right to strike. UNA has always maintained that this is an unjust law and that UNA will continue to oppose this restriction on the right to free collective bargaining.