“Alberta’s nurses have worked diligently throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and we respect and appreciate the invaluable role they have played in helping the province emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we move beyond the peaks of the pandemic and into a more manageable period, we need to continue the important work of getting the province’s finances back on track.

“AHS is offering job security to nurses, despite record unemployment in the province due to the pandemic.

“On average, Alberta nurses make 5.6 per cent more than in other comparator provinces. This costs Alberta approximately $141 million per year at a time when our finances are already stretched. The need to bring wages in line with other large provinces does not diminish our deep respect for the exceptional work and dedication of public sector workers. It is simply reflective of our fiscal reality, and one that many sectors in the province have experienced.

“The past 16 months have put a considerable strain on the province, following already high levels of debt and deficit. An additional $5.1 billion was spent in response to COVID-19 and to support the Alberta Recovery Plan, which included $1.5 billion in health care spending. This is above and beyond the $23 billion Health expense in Budget 2021 – the largest single-year investment in health care in Alberta’s history.

Alberta can no longer afford to be an outlier. We are hopeful that AHS and UNA will bargain in good faith to ensure health care workers are treated fairly, while being respectful of the province’s fiscal reality.