to push for improvements
to bargain hard for improvements in their salaries and conditions.
A not so successful attempt involved the nurses at the Hardisty Nursing
Home in Edmonton in 1981. The issues included improved wages, working
conditions and benefits--the whole works. Hardisty
was able to keep the home operating by the use of management nurses
and others imported from elsewhere, and the striking nurses eventually
found other jobs.
The same year bargaining began again for the new provincial collective
agreement and by January 1st of 1982, the UNA was in a strike position
again. The nurses wanted dramatic further salary increases as well
as to make overtime voluntary, safety measures and 229 other improvements.
The government threw a monkey wrench into the proceedings by imposing
a Disputes Inquiry Board to hold hearings into the unresolved issues,
prohibiting strike action until the report was completed. Penalties
for failing to comply included huge fines.
UNA complied with
the Disputes Inquiry Board process, but ran into difficulty when
the Minister of Labour ordered a government-supervised vote for UNA
members to accept or reject the Board recommendations. The
Minister ordered this government-supervised vote to take place on February
11. UNA had already ordered a UNA vote, compliant with the UNA
Constitution, to be held February 12. UNA directed its members
to boycott the government-supervised vote of February 11, and the government
threatened to impose the results of the February 11th vote even if
only one nurse voted. The government backed down temporarily
and did not impose the results of the few voters in the February 11
vote. On February 12, UNA members rejected the recommendations. The
law was later changed so that a union's refusal to vote in a government-supervised
vote was declared illegal, and the government was given the power to
impose their vote results as a settlement of the dispute.
On February 16,
1982, UNA began a legal strike at sixty-nine (69) Alberta Hospitals
affecting 6,000 nurses. UNA represented
8,300 hospital nurses at the bargaining table, but with the implementation
of the LRB ruling that some Locals could not reconsider and vote to
strike, only 6,000 were actually in a legal position to strike.
The strike dragged
on and on. Then, on March 10th, the government passed Bill 11 ordering
nurses back to work and establishing another tribunal under Mr. Justice
Forsyth. The law included huge penalties, including decertification
of the union, and the nurses returned to work on March 11 as ordered.
Mr. Justice Forsyth
held 17 days of hearings and brought down his binding award in July
of that year that mandated a twenty-nine per cent wage increase over
two years, improved scheduling, mandatory overtime, and, what must
have been a relief to many nurses, a no-working-alone provision.
In 1982, there
was also a dispute for the nurses working in Health Units, and their
employers locked out more than 300 UNA nurses. The lockout affected
nurses in locations widely spread around the province, from Leduc
to Lethbridge. The lockout lasted a month and was finally
resolved with a negotiated agreement for a 14 per cent wage increase
and compensation for lost benefits.