Nurses picket outside Sturgeon Community Hospital: ‘Looking for a fair contract’

EDMONTON — Alberta’s nurses union is drawing attention to the province’s proposal to roll back nurses’ wages by three per cent with an information picket at a St. Albert hospital.

By 6:30 a.m. Monday, about a dozen picketers had gathered outside the Sturgeon Community Hospital.

Among them was registered nurse and union local president Orissa Shima, whose sign around her neck read, “Willing to strike for a fair contract.”

She said she and her colleagues were there to let the public know they aren’t prepared to take a wage cut after the pandemic, which they say would be damaging to the public health care system.

“Nurses have been here, working hard — tirelessly actually — and we’re looking for a fair contract and we’re not willing to take a rollback at this point,” Shima told CTV News Edmonton.

“What is a thank you when we’re telling us we’re worth less?” she asked. “What I’m hearing from my members is, yeah, it’s a slap in the face, it’s a punch in the gut, after all we’ve been through and given during this pandemic.”

A week earlier, Alberta’s finance minister said the proposal was part of work to get the province’s finances “back on track” and that nurses there make 5.6 per cent more than others across the country.

According to Statistics Canada, nursing wages averaged $44.12 in June, the highest rate of the provinces but near B.C. and Saskatchewan’s $43 wages and Manitoba’s $41.46 wages. Across Canada, the median was $39.72.

“That’s part of the Alberta advantage,” Shima said, saying the same is true of other occupations.

The government’s proposal also includes eliminating semi-annual lump sum payments and reduced shift and weekend premiums.

It returns to the bargaining table with United Nurses of Alberta on Aug. 4 and 5.

The government is also proposing a four per cent rollback for hospital staff.

More to come…

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Nahreman Issa  

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