By Steffanie Costigan
Westwind Weekly News
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Seven years of bargaining for fair wages at Good Samaritan Society has resulted in frustrated employees holding rallies across Alberta.
A couple of rallies took place in Lethbridge earlier this month and another was held Oct. 10 in Cardston at the Lee Crest location.
Vice president of the Alberta Union Provincial Employee South Region Darren Graham shared what sparked the rallies initially.
“The main reason for the rallies, initially, the billing we had at Park Meadows was to just show support and urge the employer to ratify the agreement that the mediator had brought forward, which we feel is reasonable for the time period that it was being done. And basically, this group has been in bargaining for seven years now,” said Graham.
Upon Southern Alberta Newspapers reaching out to the Good Samaritan Society regarding the rallies James Frey, director at Good Samaritan Society, shared their statement via email.
“The Good Samaritan Society is committed to maintaining a good relationship with our unions, and we will continue negotiating in good faith. We have asked for and received a short extension from the mediator while we continue our analysis. We expect to respond to the mediator’s report very soon. We cannot comment any further on specifics.”
A mediator put forth a recommendation of a 1.25 per cent increase in October of 2021, and again for 2022 and 2023 and effective January 1 of 2024, a half per cent increase.
Graham said he feels Good Samaritan Society has been stalling and noted the number of different negotiators Good Samaritan has had.
“This employer just seems to keep stalling and stalling, I believe there is a double digit on the amount of negotiators that they’ve had because we’ll get one negotiator from the employer side, and you go in a callback to firm up times and dates, and that person’s quit. And there’s a new person now that’s gonna be doing negotiations. Throw COVID in there as well. And there’s been a multitude of delays.”
On Sept. 28 the recommendations from both mediators were due but Good Samaritan Society requested an extension “so that they could do their due diligence and further analysis,” Graham said.
AUPE represents workers in multiple sites across the province with over 1,400 members employed at 11 varying Good Samaritan Society sites. Graham said members are feeling frustration trying to bargain with Good Samaritan.
“Our members are very upset because not only did we go to every single worksite and cast ballots and everything like that over the month that they had to pull our recommendation together, the employer also had that same amount of time. And we just feel it’s an assault tactic by this employer, and our members are getting very, very upset.”
Graham said particularly in Cardston the Good Samaritan site have been hiring agency workers from out of province from Kelowna, B.C.
“That’s one of our big issues with agency workers is good Samaritan Society has chosen to bring in more and more agency workers rather than actually agreeing to similar wages that Alberta Health Services pays, which would actually help lead to better recruitment. Therefore, more full staffing lines, etc. But instead, they’ve decided to turn to hiring these agency staff,” said Graham.
Graham said he believes Good Samaritan Society is making a profit by bringing in these out-of-province workers.
“They’re actually paying these agency workers more money than they’re paying AUPE members right now. They’re providing them contracts with a guaranteed minimum number of hours.”
Graham called situation “upsetting, especially in a long-term care setting.”