How Alberta Nurses Unionized

In Alberta, the Provincial Staff Nurse Committee (PSNC) took over the role of negotiating work conditions and salaries with nurses’ employers.

Bob Donahue was the director of the Committee and immediately set about creating long-range planning goals for the collective bargaining program, including a 150% increase in the  budget to support collective bargaining.  This position was overwhelmingly endorsed by 84 of the 86 Staff Nurse Associations at their first general meeting on February 23, 1977.  But the Alberta Association of Registered Nurses (AARN) Provincial Council blocked changes to the way membership dues were shared with the PSNC.

The only way the PSNC could effect the changes it desired was to use the decision-making mechanisms of a general AARN meeting. The staff nurses could easily win a majority vote.  But the Provincial Council for some time refused to call a general meeting.

Finally, on May 6, 1977, the AARN called a general meeting to be held immediately after the Annual Meeting.  1300 nurses attended this meeting in Calgary and represented the widespread concerns of nurses on the recent events and the proposed splitting up of the two divisions of the AARN.  The meeting was filled with tension and confrontation, and finally Gurty Chinell announced the decision of the PSNC to form an independent organization, and requested the support of the AARN so as to protect existing Collective Agreements. Adjournment was abruptly moved and seconded, and the United Nurses of Alberta was born.
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