Alberta Public Service bargaining
The Government of Alberta is currently in the process of negotiating a new collective agreement with more than 21,000 unionized Alberta Public Service Employees who are represented by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE).
Albertans are fortunate to have nearly 27,000 dedicated and hard working government employees committed to keeping the province functioning in a safe, secure and productive way.
The government and AUPE have met several times since early 2020 and agreed to pause negotiations for intervals throughout the past year due to the pandemic.
- The parties met again at the beginning of February, and focused on the non-monetary aspects of the agreement. While there are still items that need to be discussed, both sides continue to work together and are making important progress.
- The parties will meet again in March to continue the dialogue towards a new agreement.
How the bargaining process works
There are many steps to the bargaining process.
Step 1: Collective bargaining
Collective bargaining occurs between the two parties:
- If there is an agreement, union members and the government vote to accept or reject the offer.
- If an agreement cannot be reached, parties proceed with the steps outlined below.
Step 2: Essential Service Agreement
If legislatively required, the parties conclude an Essential Services Agreement (ESA) and file the Labour Relations Board.
An ESA is an agreement between the union and the employer that provides details about which essential service must be maintained during a strike or lockout.
Step 3: Mediation
Parties file for mediation and it begins, following the Labour Relation's Board acceptance of the ESA, where required.
Step 4: Cooling off
If mediation is not successful, it is followed by a 14 day cooling off period.
Step 5: Strike vote / lockout poll
A Labour Relations Board-supervised strike vote (unions) or lockout poll (employers) must be taken and a majority of those voting must agree to the strike or lockout.
Step 6: 72 hours' notice
One party must serve the other (as well as the mediator) with 72 hours' notice before the strike or lockout begins.
- Alberta Health Services has agreements in place to delay collective bargaining for most public sector workers in health care due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Government of Alberta and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) are currently bargaining.
Public sector employees in Alberta
- In 2019-20, Alberta spent $27.3 billion on public sector compensation. That represents 54% of the Alberta government’s operating budget and is the largest single expense in the budget.
- More than 230,000 people in Alberta’s public sector work in the core public services of healthcare, K-12 public education, post-secondary institutions and the public service.
- Each 1% increase in public sector compensation costs $270 million – funding that could be put toward healthcare, education and other vital services.
- There are 149 separate collective agreements for public sector employees that are negotiated with the unions. This does not include contracts for municipal workers.
Even before the economic and fiscal crisis, the government was facing a spending challenge. The MacKinnon Report on Alberta’s Finances found that Alberta’s spending per capita is the highest in Canada and has consistently been higher than the average of the 10 provinces over the last 25 years.
Alberta’s annual expenditures would be $10.4 billion less if its per capita spending simply matched the average spending in Canada’s 3 largest provinces: British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.
Making public sector services sustainable will require fair and reasonable collective agreements that over time will help bring Alberta’s spending in line with other provinces. This would ensure government can sustain and improve the services Albertans need.
In addition to returning to 2018-19 spending levels, the province has revised its bargaining position, asking the public service to take a 3% compensation reduction.
Albertans pay more than most Canadians for public services. In 2019, we paid $5,470 per person on public sector compensation, compared to $4,834 per person in British Columbia and $4,702 in Ontario.
In many cases, the Government of Alberta's Public Service workers are compensated significantly higher than their peers in other comparable provinces. This includes workers in B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario.
- 16.8% higher for policy analysts
- 16.2% higher for wildlife biologists
- 11.3% higher for probation officers
Some other workers in Alberta's public sector are also compensated higher than their peers are in other comparable provinces.
- 4.8% higher for teachers
- 8.1% for registered nurses
- 6.8% for health care aides
- 16.3% for pharmacy technicians
Alberta’s unemployment rate is the highest it has been since the recession in the 1980s and almost all of it is in the private sector. The unemployment rate for 2020 averaged 11.3% which means more than one in 10 Albertans were unable to find work during the year.
Government’s bargaining position reflects the economic reality facing many Albertans who have already seen their income reduced or lost their jobs.
Government values its employees and will make every reasonable effort to negotiate an agreement that reflects the current economic and fiscal reality.
Alberta’s economic reality
Alberta has been hit especially hard by the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and oil price collapse. This has affected the livelihoods and circumstances of many Albertans.
The economic impact has also led to decreased revenues, increased expenses, higher than anticipated debt, and a record high deficit.
The drop in revenue is unprecedented. It is larger than government's total annual expenditures on K to 12 education ($8.3 billion). The province now faces a massive debt burden.
The annual interest payment on debt could be going to programs and services that benefit all Albertans. The $2.4 billion annual interest payment on debt could pay for:
- 29,177 registered nurses working for Alberta Health Services
- 9,622 long term care beds, or
- 71 K-9 schools
January 18, 2021President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance Travis Toews issued the following statement on the agreement between nurses and Alberta Health Services to provide additional COVID-related supports and delay bargaining until March 31, 2021:
November 6, 2020President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance issued the following statement about the negotiations between the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) and the Alberta Public Service (APS):
October 26, 2020President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance Travis Toews issued the following statement on the Alberta Labour Relations Board ruling:
October 26, 2020President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance Travis Toews issued the following statement on the illegal strikes:
October 8, 2020President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance Travis Toews issued the following statement on United Nurses of Alberta’s rejection of Alberta Health Services’ proposal to delay labour negotiations:
February 6, 2020Minister of Finance Travis Toews issued the following statement on collective bargaining negotiations between the Public Service Commission and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees.
February 5, 2020President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance Travis Toews issued the following statement about the arbitration decision involving the Health Sciences Association of Alberta.
January 31, 2020Finance Minister Travis Toews issued the following statement on three arbitration decisions involving the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE).
October 24, 2019Read the speech delivered by Finance Minister Travis Toews to introduce the provincial government's 2019 budget.
August 15, 2019President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance Travis Toews issued the following statement to acknowledge the receipt of the report from the Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s finances: