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AHS proposes steep wage rollbacks for respiratory therapists, pharmacists and more

Alberta Health Services is proposing up to 10 per cent in wage reductions for some health-care professionals including respiratory therapists, social workers and pharmacists in early contract negotiations with the union that represents them.

An email to members from Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA), outlines AHS’ opening proposal including wage rollbacks for around 57 per cent of members ranging from 0.28 per cent to 10.93 per cent depending on the profession.

HSAA says it recognizes this is early in negotiations but says it rejected the proposal outright.

"Not only are they insulting, considering the extra efforts we've given over the past few years, but also on principle. Singling out disciplines for varying rollbacks is an attack on our solidarity. It's meant to drive wedges between us.

The following is a list of the proposed wage rollback percentages according to the email sent by HSAA to its members:

  • Pharmacy Technician – 10.93 per cent
  • Social Worker – 10.90 per cent
  • Speech Language Pathologist – 8.69 per cent
  • Respiratory Therapist – 8.05 per cent
  • Health Information Management Professional – 7.49 per cent
  • Occupational Therapist – 5.39 per cent
  • Pharmacist – 5.10 per cent
  • Therapy Assistant – 2.35 per cent
  • Physiotherapist – 2.33 per cent
  • Diagnostic Sonographer – 1.87 per cent
  • Dietitian – 0.88 per cent
  • Advanced Care Paramedic – 0.28 per cent

The email says AHS’ proposal would see no salary increases until April 1, 2023 at one per cent.

HSAA says AHS is proposing reducing minimum hours between shifts from 15 to 12 for some roles, increasing number of scheduled shifts in a row from six days to seven, and eliminating free parking.

"These are all disappointing and disrespectful. Implementing these rollbacks and failing to act on workplace issues will only intensify burnout, which leads to more people leaving our professions," reads the email to members.

HSAA’s initial proposal included roughly a 15 per cent hike over four years broke down as follows:

•    April 1, 2020 – 2.6 per cent 
•    April 1, 2021 – 4.2 per cent
•    April 1, 2022 – 4.74 per cent 
•    April 1, 2023 – 3.6 per cent

It also wants to see each employee and former staff issued a one-time premium payment for last year, similar to what nurses negotiated in their contract.

"Alberta has a critical shortage of health-care workers, and we are in a competition with the world for the talent that is out there. We feel these proposed increases better positions the employer to retain staff, while making Alberta an attractive option to be considered by emerging professionals."

The provincial NDP places blame on the UCP government, accusing it of not prioritizing health care workers.

"This is a brutal insult to all the Albertans who have put themselves in harm’s way throughout the pandemic and who have worked to protect their fellow Albertans for their entire careers," said David Shepherd, NDP Critic for Health. "Respiratory therapists, paramedics, speech language pathologists, and so many others: they are heroes. And their work isn’t done. They continue to step up, under significant pressures, to support the health and save the lives of Albertans."

In a statement, AHS says the current collective agreement with HSAA expired on March 31, 2020 but a suspension on bargaining until October 2021 was agreed to by both parties due to the pandemic.

"The bargaining process takes time, and we will not know the outcome of bargaining for some time. Any conjecture would be inappropriate and premature at this time."

The next meeting is expected to take place March 29 and 30. Top Stories

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