In 2002, UNA organized a new Local at Shepherd’s Care Foundation in Edmonton — Local #219. UNA charged the Employer with bad faith actions vìs â vìs organizing and was successful. Unfortunately when UNA began bargaining for a first Collective Agreement, the Employer tabled rollbacks and maintained that position through all rounds of bargaining in 2002. The year ended without a first Collective Agreement and with UNA laying charges of bad faith bargaining at the Labour Relations Board — charges to be heard in early 2003.
In 2002, UNA organized nurses at Age Care Ltd. In Medicine Hat — UNA Local #220. This Employer operates the Valleyview Nursing Home where these nurses work. A first Collective Agreement was negotiated which expires March 31, 2003.
UNA also organized the nurses at Extendicare, Athabasca — UNA Local #224 and nurses at Medicine Hat, Good Samaritan — UNA Local #223.
By the terms of UNA’s provincial Collective Agreements, effective January 1, 2002, many UNA Employers were to institute a supplementary pension benefit — an up-to 2% RRSP contribution. Different Employers set up different plans and, UNA requested details of each Employers’ implementation strategy. UNA responded to the Employers’ strategies in order to ensure compliant application. A new Memorandum of Agreement between UNA and the Provincial Health Authorities of Alberta (PHAA) resolved non-compliance problems and the outstanding grievances on this matter.
On January 16, 2002, UNA members ratified the Letter of Understanding on Education Allowances.
The new UNA Local #215 at Extendicare, Viking, ratified their first Collective Agreement with the same salary rates, premiums and language as the other six UNA Extendicare Collective Agreements.
The 2003 round of provincial bargaining began in April 2002 with a bargaining survey. Locals formulated and approved their proposed in-going demands and sent them into Provincial Office by June 3, 2002.
The provincial Negotiating Committee was elected and began work with an orientation workshop in June and a work-week in July. The process of reviewing and consolidating Local demands concluded with the Negotiating Committee’s recommendations being sent to all Locals and being presented to the September 17th, 18th & 19th, 2002 Demand-Setting Meeting. A full package of demands was approved at the Demand-Setting Meeting and was ratified in a province-wide vote on December 4, 2002.
In 2002, UNA was in negotiations for a first Collective Agreement for UNA Local #224, Extendicare in Athabasca and for nurses in UNA Local #223, Medicine Hat Good Samaritan. UNA also continued bargaining for UNA Local #219 at Shepherd’s Care in Millwoods.
UNA negotiated a first Collective Agreement for nurses at Valleyview Nursing Home, Local #220 in Medicine Hat. This first contract is proving to be one of the more difficult rounds of bargaining due to the Employer’s entrenched positions.
Grievances, Arbitrations, Mediations and Hearings
In 2002, UNA Locals and staff continued the on-going challenge of monitoring the application of UNA Collective Agreements. This activity resulted in UNA filing _____
grievances of which _____ were advanced to arbitration. UNA Labour Relations staff were nominees on _____ of arbitration boards
Mediation settled some of these grievances and _____ proceeded to arbitration hearings. Twenty-four (24) arbitration awards were received in 2002.
UNA Staff continued to provide union representation for UNA duespayers and Locals in such venues as:
Employment Standard appeals
Alberta Labour Relations Board hearings and determinations
Employment Insurance appeals
Insurance company appeals
Human Rights challenges
UNA continued to pursue province-wide grievances:
Retention and recruitment
UNA withdrew almost all retention and recruitment grievances. The 2001-2003 Collective Agreement stipulated that hiring incentives must be negotiated through the Union. The 2002 budget cuts to Regional Health Authorities’s resulted in most recruitment and retention programs being withdrawn. Future incentives must be negotiated with the Union.
80% direct payment
These 2001 “all” grievances began to be heard at arbitration hearings in 2002. The question before arbitrators was: “does all mean all”? vìs â vìs “all physician or dentist prescribed medications”. UNA was successful — the arbitrators struck down the Employers’ interpretation that “all” meant “all drugs on the approved drug list”. Other “all” grievances will proceed to arbitration in 2003.
UNA resolved over seventy (70) grievances on who is eligible for the $100 reimbursement of professional fees. A nurse is eligible if she works 40% of full-time hours and these hours include sick leave, leaves of absence of 30 days or less, WCB and vacation.
UNA filed grievances challenging the various Employers’ implementation of the 2% supplementary RRSP. Some Employers imposed arbitrary deadlines thereby restricting access to the RRSP and limiting the amounts of monies paid by the Employers. No such restrictions are contained in the Collective Agreements that provide for such a supplementary RRSP. UNA settled these grievances positively.
In-charge facility premium
The provincial facilities’ Collective Agreement provides a premium for RNs/RPNs left in charge of an entire facility when there is no manager “readily available”. UNA lost two (2) arbitration rulings with the arbitrators finding that phone availability is sufficient to meet the criteria of “readily available”.
New SPOTLIGHT posters were developed highlighting interpretation for specific provisions in UNA Collective Agreements. These new posters are available for posting on units/offices and can be accessed through UNA*Net.
UNA filed a number of grievances when managers denied or cancelled vacations. This occurred in Calgary Locals at the time of the G8 Summit meeting of world leaders. It also occurred in many small rural worksites.
UNA also filed grievances in Regions where layoffs occurred and the Employers refused to offer severance packages.
ALBERTA LABOUR RELATIONS BOARD
The Alberta Labour Relations Board (ALRB) announced in January 2002, that it intended to make major changes in how health care unions would be structured. Included in the proposed changes were:
separate bargaining units for acute care, community, long-term care, mental health and cancer treatment
all-Employee bargaining units
new definition of nursing bargaining units — in which bargaining would LPN’s most properly belong?
In response to the ALRB proposals, UNA struck an ad hoc “Structural Review Committee” to examine options and make recommendations to the UNA Executive Board. The SRC examined the ALRB and recommended the following positions to the June 2002 UNA Executive Board meeting:
that UNA create new composite Locals if Employers apply for region-wide or Employer-wide certificates
that UNA apply for all-Employee units when organizing in sectors outside acute care, community and long-term care
that UNA encourage UNA representation for LPN’s
These positions were approved by the UNA Executive Board and referred to the 2002 UNA Annual General Meeting in October for debate and decision. All three motions were passed by the AGM.
The Structural Review Committee also made recommendations to the UNA Provincial Negotiating Committee regarding the ALRB proposals. These proposed UNA positions were presented to the 2002 Demand-Setting meeting. Bargaining proposals were adopted to reflect possible ALRB proposed changes.
REGIONAL HEALTH AUTHORIES
In 2002, cutbacks in funding and budget deficits continued to plague many of Alberta’s Regional Health Authorities.
The Chinook Health Region in southern Alberta was particularly hard hit by budget cuts. In October, UNA Locals in Chinook ran a series of newspaper ads to alert the citizens of Chinook as to what the cuts would mean. The business plan included 144 layoffs of full-time health provider jobs (later increased to 173); the closure of whole hospitals; and the reduction of long-term care beds.
Nurses in Keeweetinok Lakes Region were also hit with $1.7 million in cuts. These cuts included the possible reduction of programs and the closure of facilities. High Prairie was particularly hard hit and the UNA Local spoke out publicly through the media and at a citizens’ rally aimed at stopping the closure of the acute care hospital in High Prairie.
In 2002, Health & Wellness Minister, Gary Mar, announced the dissolution of the WestView Regional Health Authority and the incorporation of that geographic area into other RHA’s. However, throughout 2002, WestView continued to function as a separate regional health authority. It is slated to disappear in 2003.
On December 19, 2002, Health and Wellness released maps for the new Regional Health Authorities which would take effect April 1, 2003. The seventeen (17) original RHA’s were re-configured and the new number of RHA’s would be nine (9) in number,
This constant re-organization of boundaries and budgets and program delivery and management put tremendous stress on all health care providers and on users of the system. The new RHA configuration will cause labour relations and administrative chaos in the coming years.
LONG TERM CARE
In 2001, UNA won a court injunction at St. Michael’s in Lethbridge, to stop the layoffs of (six) 6 full-time RN positions and the replacement of RNs with LPNs. In early 2002, UNA represented these nurses at an arbitration hearing lasting over 15 days and the award from this hearing is expected in early 2003. Meanwhile the Employer at St. Michael’s appealed the injunction and the Court of Appeal heard the case in December 2002, and the panel of judges unanimously rejected the Employer’s appeal.
Chinook Health Region announced severe budget cuts and one of the hardest hit areas was long term care. Chinook Region “leads the field” in designing new ways to reduce services to seniors and to create new ways to extract monies from this vulnerable population. The Chinook Region and the Good Samaritan Society introduced the concept of “assisted living” whereby 31 long term care beds in Pincher Creek were closed on October 10 and the patients transferred to “assisted living” accommodations where they were given the choice of “buying” an extra bath; “purchasing” meals every day; and “shopping” for other basic services once fully-paid. These same residents no longer received RN care because on October 10, 2002, seven (7) RNs, eight (8) LPNs and eleven (11) PCAs were laid off when the “assisted living” plan became operational.
In July, Southern Alberta citizens showed their concerns about Chinook’s deep cuts across the Region — 200 citizens rallied at the Chinook Regional Health Authority’s offices in Lethbridge. Announced cuts would result in more than 200 health care provider layoffs and the closure of more than 30 acute care beds. A similar rally occurred in Fort McLeod and drew nearly 300 people. And another rally took place in Pincher Creek.
Crossroads Regional Health Authority also announced budget cuts resulting in the reduction of 21 full-time positions.
In 2002, the Alberta Chapter of the Consumers’ Association of Canada published an investigative report entitled “Eldercare — On the Auction Block” written by Wendy Armstrong. She did a careful examination of the Alberta government’s long range plan for seniors. Public monies for long term care have been severely cut and the government is encouraging private business to fill the void. The result is the huge increase in “assisted living” facilities, an idea imported from the U.S. Instead of comprehensive, quality care, seniors are now faced with an array of “unbundled” services, many of which must be purchased. Monthly fees in “assisted living” settings can add up to over $4000 — in comparison to a total monthly bill of around $1000 per resident in a public or not-for-profit long term care facility.
UNA grieved the layoffs of three of the nine nurses at Bethany Care, Cochrane. These layoffs would leave the 78-bed long term care facility with only one RN on for each shift.
Six nurses at the Olds Health Care Centre — part of the David Thompson RHA — received layoff notices when the Region decided to close eleven (11) long term care beds. The Region was reported to be planning to move the patients to a privately-run seniors’ lodge that provides no nursing care. Protests and signed petitions sparked angry letters to the editor in local newspapers.
ALBERTA ASSOCIATION OF REGISTERED NURSES
The AARN announced a move to a Baccalureate entry to practice in 2005. Questions remained on whether nurses graduating with diplomas in other provinces or countries would be eligible to practice in Alberta. The Canadian Federation of Nurses’ Unions, reflecting upon the entry to practice discussion across Canada, drafted a policy which stated: “The path that is taken to become an RN is not important but whether or not he/she has passed national exams”.
The 2000-2001 Annual Report released by the AARN showed that 25,153 nurses were registered in 2001 with 1,249 nurses registered for the first time. The numbers also showed many more nurses moving to Alberta from other provinces.
The Provincial Council of the AARN decided to withdraw their documents on guidelines for RN delegation and supervision of client care; for working with LPNs; and for determining the appropriate category of care provider. The AARN explained this withdrawal saying that under the new Health Professions Act no such terms as “delegation” and “supervision” are used. Each of the 28 health care disciplines is autonomous under the new Act and comes under its own scope of practice and is not supervised by any other profession, claimed the AARN. The AARN said that Employers are responsible for ensuring the competency of the caregivers they hire.
In 2002, the new Health Professions Act Regulations were being drafted by the health care professional bodies.
With the strong salary increases in the current UNA Collective Agreements, pension benefits for retiring nurses also went up. Local Authorities Pension Plan (LAPP) uses the highest five-year average earnings in calculating the pension amount. Working an additional year at the new wage rates increased the monthly benefits by as much as $200 a month.
The LAPP announced that both the Employer and Employee contribution rates were going up by 0.5% on January 1, 2003. The 2001 and 2002 disappointing results in financial markets and low interest rates have erased the LAPP’s surplus previously used to keep rates down. Higher contributions in 2003 will help ensure that LAPP benefits are sustainable in future years.
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
Over 550 UNA members and staff attended the 2002 AGM held October 22-24, 2002 in Edmonton
The 2002 Annual General Meeting celebrated the 25th anniversary of UNA. Delegates enjoyed a chuckle, and some reminiscing during a presentation on UNA’s history. Some of the presenters and some of the delegates and observers were nurses who were there in 1977 and in all of the ensuing years of UNA history. “Strength in Unity” was the theme and t-shirts and pins celebrating 25 years were distributed.
The delegates to the 2002 UNA Annual General Meeting made some historic decisions based upon recommendations from the Structural Review Committee and the UNA Executive Board. These decisions included responses to the Alberta Labour Relations board proposed changes to the structure of health care unions:
UNA will create composite Locals if Employers apply for region-wide/Employer-wide certificates
UNA will apply for “all-Employee units” where required by the ALRB e.g. private clinics
UNA will encourage LPN’s to seek UNA representation
Linda Silas, former president of the New Brunswick Nurses’ Union, and a member of the Canadian Nursing Advisory Committee (CNAC) presented highlights of the CNAC report released in August, 2002. Silas was on the Committee as a nominee of the Canadian Federation of Nurses and as such played a valuable role in the development of recommendations which included:
the need to prepare and hire more registered nurses
the need to reduce high levels of stress experienced by nurses
the need to reduce high levels of sick leave usage
the need to increase the number of front line managers
the need to expand nursing enrollment
the need to provide nursing scholarship funding
the need for long-term, multi-year funding in the nursing workforce
Lillian Bayne, an executive assistant to Roy Romanow, spoke to the nurses at the UNA Annual General Meeting regarding the process of the Romanow Commission. She stated that “Canadians care passionately about their health care system” and they told the Commission that they are prepared to work to maintain medicare. Canadians want to see improvements in the system. Bayne outlined a number of current deficiencies detailed to the Commission and indicated that the federal government must play an important role in protecting a seamless national health care system. Bayne said we could all look forward to the Romanow’s prescription for change.
The 2002 UNA Annual General Meeting also heard a memorable presentation from Jon Shearer, a sleep researcher whose knowledge of the effects of shiftwork was impressive. “Shiftwork is dangerous” said Shearer and went on to outline a society’s responsibility to address the needs of shiftworkers. “If an economy is based on one third of its workers regularly working shift, that society and the employers who benefit, must assume responsibility for shift work problems including contractual provisions to reduce negative effects”. Shearer said that legal litigation against shiftworkers and their employers is acting as a spur to change in the U.S. and is probably an up-coming reality in Canada. Shearer offered his website as a resource for data on the effects of shiftwork. http://www.jonshearer.com
A new UNA orientation video was shown to the AGM and will be available in early 2003.
In 2002, 86 workshops were offered to 1703 participants.
The basic provincially-funded workshops included:
How to Run a Local
Occupational Health & Safety
UNA staff also taught workshops at the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) Labour School held in Jasper in the weeks of November 25-29, 2002 and December 2-6, 2002.
On May 13-15, 2002, UNA organized a Labour School at Mount Royal College in Calgary. Keynote speakers were Melodie Chenevert who inspired nurses to forge ahead with new creativity and innovation; and Leah Curtin who gave an encouraging presentation about the future of nursing and about overcoming the shortage of RN’s. A number of facilitators presented important information to workshop participants and shared their experiences and learnings on such topics as retirement planning; privatization of health care; the duty to accommodate; job search skills; occupational health and safety; and media skills.
The UNA Executive Board voted to offer three $750 scholarships to help nursing students in their first year of nursing.
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY
In 2002, considerable effort was put into dealing with the implementation of “disability management” or “attendance management” programs by Employers across the province. These programs are purportedly designed to keep nurses at work and to reduce the use of sick time. However, the result has been the systematic harassment of sick nurses by Employers that refuse to approve leave for illnesses well-documented by physicians. Nurses also report repeated phone calls to their homes while they are sick. UNA informed members of their rights to sick leave, to privacy of their health information, and to union representation if they are contacted regarding one of these programs.
Workload issues continued during 2002. Nursing shortages were so severe that some Employers resorted to the regular use of mandatory overtime just to cover scheduled vacations. This is clearly in violation of contract language that binds Employers to work toward minimizing the use of mandatory overtime. As a result, many grievances were filed to attempt to resolve the problem. Ironically, in the face of such shortages, there have been more applicants than spaces in nursing programs around the province, largely due to the cuts in the mid-90’s that reduced the spaces available to educate nurses. Grant MacEwan Community College reported 1400 applicants for 275 seats in the RN transfer program and Mount Royal Community College reported 601 qualified applicants with only 280 spots available.
Abuse and harassment have continued to threaten nurses working nights and weekends, particularly in smaller Locals. Members from the Sturgeon Hospital and from Tofield both made presentations to their respective regional boards to protest the lack of security on the units. The Tofield nurses even resorted to the “scream test” to show how poor communication could be on the unit. With one person screaming down the hall, the others would listen at different spots around the unit. In many places, the screaming could not be heard, clearly demonstrating the level of risk to a nurse under threat. While much has been said about measures that could be taken to ensure the safety of nurses, to date, Employers continue to resist positive changes.
One of the worst threats to nurses this year was a shooting in mid-June at Edmonton Grey Nuns’ Hospital. During the course of a conversation in the admitting area, a man pulled out a flare gun and shot a security guard in the face. The guard was treated and released, but the incident underscored the validity of ongoing attempts to increase safety measures in emergency rooms and throughout hospitals.
These types of threats were highlighted during the April 28 Day of Mourning for Injured Workers. Nurses have one of the highest rates of injury and illness on the job of any occupational group in Canada.
HEALTH CARE REFORM
On January 16, 2002, UNA members voted to joint the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) and the Local and District Labour Councils.
National Medicare Day
On May 15, 2002, National Medicare Day, over 200 UNA nurses were at the UNA Labour School in Calgary and used the noon hour to board buses and join CUPE and AFL representatives outside the Health Resources Centre (HRC), Alberta’s first for-profit hospital. In addressing the demonstrators Heather Smith said: “This facility will be the beginning of a new private health industry that is building up to make money off the illness and misfortune of Albertans”. The nurses then strung red plastic “crime scene” tape with the words: “Yes to National Medicare” along the front of the HRC site.
In May, 2002, the Shaw Convention Centre (Edmonton) employees went on strike for a first Collective Agreement. They were not seeking a salary increase but wanted to have a union and a contract to protect them from harassment and discrimination and unfair treatment. One outstanding issue was the recognition of full-time work. Shaw management continued to classify many of the employees as part-time and denied them benefits even after many years of employment.
Over the summer the Labour Relations Board ruled that the Shaw Employers were guilty of unfair labour practices but even that did not force Shaw back to the bargaining table with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). UFCW then took the fight to City Hall — City Council is the only shareholder in Economic Development Edmonton which manages the conference centre.
UNA pulled three (3) major bookings from the Shaw Centre as did other unions.
In September, during the UNA provincial Demand-Setting meeting, delegates and observers hit the bricks in front of City Hall in support of striking workers. Inside City Hall, councillors voted to give Shaw management an extra $1.9 million to continue its attempts to break the strike.
By November, with no settlement achieved, UFCW called a rally to support picket lines during pre-Grey Cup activities in the Centre. Instead of a demonstration the rally turned into a victory celebration when word reached the lines that a settlement had been reached.
Friends of Medicare
UNA continued to work closely with Friends of Medicare to oppose the privatization of Canada’s health care system. On October 13, Friends of Medicare spokesperson, Christine Burdett, officially launched the Medicare Trees campaign. Albertans were invited to inscribe their name or message on a copper leaf to be attached to beautiful metal sculpture of Medicare Trees. Heather Smith brought leaves and branches to the UNA Annual General Meeting in October and invited all UNA Locals to take them home and have their members, families, and friends “sign a leaf”.
Starting July 1, buses in cities all around Alberta carried posters saying; “Registered Nurses: Care that makes a difference”. The bus campaign was part of UNA’s public awareness plan for 2002.
Labour Code Review
In the summer of 2002, the government launched a MLA Committee to determine the need to review Alberta’s Labour Relations Code. The deadline for submissions was September 15, 2002.
UNA provided feedback which stated that making strikes illegal for health care workers has actually resulted in more strikes, not fewer. If Employers are not faced with a strike option, they seem to feel little pressure to actually bargain for new contracts. UNA supported the AFL’s position recommending the removal of the blanket restrictions on the right-to-strike for public sector workers. The AFL also called on the government to bring in first contract arbitration when no agreement can be reached thus avoiding another prolonged strike like that experienced by the Shaw workers in Edmonton.
Protection for Persons in Care Act
Since the Protection for Persons in Care Act (PPCA) was proclaimed in January 1998, there have been numerous complaints about its implementation and about the flaws in its construction. In January, 2002, the Minister of Community Development announced that a review of the Act would be done by a newly-struck Protection for Persons in Care Legislative Review Committee chaired by Brayce Jacobs (MLA Cardston-Taber-Warner). UNA gathered evidence about the problems encountered regarding the PPCA and asked nurses who had experienced unfair treatment, long delays or harassment to record their experiences. In addition to citing these first-hand accounts, UNA made a comprehensive written submission which included a recommendation that would respect the rights of the accused in the same way as the rights of the complainant and a further recommendation that would take into account the difference between the professional actions of nurses which may cause pain and discomfort and an intentional act of abuse. UNA further recommended that all the rules of natural justice be applied to the process of the investigation, the hearing and the resultant action.
Value of Registered Nurses
A number of very credible research studies were published in 2002 — all of which identified the unmistakable value of having registered nurses delivering health care services. One study of surgical units actually demonstrated that “each additional patient per nurse was associated with a 7% increase in the likelihood of dying within 30 days of admission…” In 2003, UNA will produce a popularized kit summarizing these research studies.
Canadian Federation of Nurses’ Unions
In 2002, the CFNU Board and education staff from the affiliates began work to ensure an exciting learning experience for all nurses who atternd the Biennium in St. John’s Newfoundland in June, 2003.
In June, CFNU members presented Premier Gordon Campbell with the “Health Care Demolition Award” for his drastic series of cuts to health care services including cuts of 3,000 long term care beds; cuts to cancer treatment, mammography and children’s dentistry; cuts to pharmacare coverage; and cuts to staffing levels — 600 BCNU nurses were on layoff. The BC government rammed through Bill 29 which helped privatize health care and stripped BC nurses of contractual rights. Alberta nurses have every reason to watch legislated settlements in British Columbia and in Nova Scotia.
National Nursing Week was held May 6-12, 2002
This national weeek is celebrated each year to recognize the contributions of Canada’s RNs, and to commemorate the birth of Florence Nightingale on May 12th. The 2002 theme was: “Nurses Always There for You: Caring for Families”.
UNA chose National Nursing Week to put special messages on Alberta radio stations. The 30-second advertising spots emphasized the importance and caring of registered nurses.
In August, the Canadian Nursing Advisory Committee released its final report containing 51 recommendations on what Canadian governments must do to east the crisis in nursing (see the section on 2002 Annual General Meeting for details of Linda Silas’ speech on the CNAC Report).