'This is not the time to be looking for financial advancement.'

Last month the United Nurses of Alberta represented nurses all over Alberta in reaching a ratification in contract that solidifies a 3 year agreement.

Within the first two years of this newly reached contract, there is no wage increase, but in the third year, a wage re-opener will become present. The wage re-opener must be renegotiated at that time.

President of the United Nurses of Alberta, Heather Smith, spoke with DrumFM re-confirming that,

"Provisions regarding no involuntary lay-offs. The employer can't involuntarily reduce the amount of the nurses hours. Not just that you're out the door, there can't be an involuntary reduction in the number of hours a week a nurse works."

Smith, along with many nurses in Alberta, including Drumheller, want to be able to confidently relay their concerns to their employer and be taken seriously.

This is another important point met on Smith's shared agenda as she says,

"Our ability to advocate. To advocate for our workplace and our patients. We've had language since the late 70's in terms of being able to force the employer to take seriously our concerns. To strengthen the process of our professional responsibility concerns, to be dealt with."

Smith further goes into saying that they had asked for an independent assessment committee which goes beyond the site based committee at the nurses local workplace. If concerns are not met or followed through with, nurses now have access to arbitration. According to Smith,

"It doesn't just strengthen our advocacy voice in one, it actually strengthens our voice in two or three different ways."

98% of the local unions across Alberta voted in favor of this new contract as it meets certain criteria necessary for the nurses of Alberta to effectively and comfortably work within their respected fields.

Special agreements have been put into place that ensure the protection of employee and employer such as an employer asking a nurse to 'volunteer' to stay later at work. This puts the employee at risk due to physical and mental fatigue and protects the employer from any incidences that may relate to this such as injury or mental distress.

Another outlined condition met is no employee shall be requested to work more than a total of 16 hours in a 24 hour period beginning at the first hour the employee reports for their shift. Again, this protects the employee from mental and physical exhaustion that can translate into injury or mental harm.

Heather Smith and the registered nurses of Alberta are not blind to the fact the Alberta is in close to a 9 billion dollar deficit in the health sector, so asking for wage increase wasn't their first concern.

Smith says,

"Having that kind of deficit and looking around, knowing what's happening in our families and in our communities, there was very much a sense of 'This is not the time to be looking for financial advancement.'"

The United Nurses of Alberta were focusing more on improvements that would provide safe and stable work places.

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