“Our government is truly appreciative of the hard work and dedication that health care professionals – especially nurses – have shown over the last 18 months.

“We respect the rights of all Albertans to express their opinions on matters important to them.

“Our government is also committed to standing up for the health care system, and representing the best interests of all Albertans.

“That’s why we have been urging both Alberta Health Services (AHS) and UNA to work towards a new collective agreement that will bring long-term labour stability to the health care system.

“Last week, AHS proposed informal mediation to UNA, in an attempt to move towards a settlement agreement. Unfortunately, union leadership declined the offer.

“Many previous settlements have been reached in mediation. In the past 21 years, seven of the eight collective agreements between AHS and UNA have been reached with the use of a third party mediator. We are hopeful that informal mediation would allow the two parties to work collaboratively towards a deal this time as well. 

“Reaching a new collective agreement with UNA is essential for the province. The reality is that Alberta spends more money per person on health care than other large provinces, and this can’t continue.

“We are facing a $93 billion debt, and we spend more than half of the province’s operating budget on public sector compensation.

“We must continue to find efficiencies across the public sector – it’s an essential piece to restoring fiscal health and ensuring sustainable public services.

“We know the appreciation and respect for health care workers runs deep and wide throughout the province. As bargaining continues, my hope is that unions and their employers can quickly come to a settlement that works for everyone, and is aligned with the fiscal realities we are facing.”