Unions win pension fight with for-profit health-care corporation

The Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) are encouraged by a Labour Relations Board decision that private companies must abide by existing collective bargaining agreements.

EDMONTON – Alberta health-care workers will keep their pensions even if their jobs are privatized by the government.

The Alberta Labour Relations Board (ALRB) says DynaLIFE, the private company taking over certain public lab services, has an obligation to uphold terms in collective bargaining agreements – including pensions.

“We have successfully defeated an attempt by a for-profit health-care corporation to undermine the benefits of our members and the rights of union workers in Alberta,” said HSAA President Mike Parker. “DynaLIFE knew it had an obligation to keep health-care professionals whole as a part of the sale. It tried to get out of it to make more profit and has now been told it must honour our members’ collective agreement.”

“This is a major victory,” added CUPE Alberta president, Rory Gill. “Everyone deserves a dignified retirement and corporations looking to profit off of the sale of public services cannot do it on the backs of workers and their pensions.”

DynaLIFE argued providing pensions for these 900 workers is “not a fit,” “unsuitable” and “impossible” for a private, for-profit employer. The ALRB was not swayed. HSAA and CUPE are now focused on getting Local Authorities Pension Plan (LAPP) members to accept DynaLIFE. If that doesn’t happen, DynaLIFE must work with us to find a similar, defined pension plan for employees.

“This whole process is an example of the importance of unions in protecting the financial security of members and advocating on their, and all workers’, behalf,” added Parker.

Gill points out it is particularly gross DynaLIFE attempted this when its major shareholder is the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System – a pension provider. “This is a precedent-setting decision and our unions will be working hard to ensure these members and all public sector workers keep their pensions regardless of their employer.”

Parker and Gill agree… the way to avoid harming public sector workers and threatening their financial security is to end failed experiments in privatization.

HSAA and CUPE represent more than 36,000 highly-trained and dedicated health-care professionals in Alberta.


Firing of Athabasca President ‘politics over education’

Further labour unrest will follow if UCP keeps interfering in the university

EDMONTON – The union representing academic instructors at Athabasca University (AU) is coming to the defence of fired President Peter Scott.

CUPE Local 3911 Co-Chair Ann Reynolds called Scott’s dismissal ‘shocking and disappointing’ and noted that the UCP government move had more to do with rural politics than academic standards.

“The UCP prioritized politics over advanced education by trying to force AU employees to relocate to Athabasca, even though the town doesn’t have room.”

“At the same time the world is moving to remote worksites, the UCP is trying to take away Athabasca University’s greatest advantage, we’ve been delivering online learning for decades.”

Reynolds says the replacement of Scott and members of the AU board will result in more appointments of UCP members and others with little background in running online academic institutions.

“Dr. Scott is an expert in online and open education. He vigorously protested using a university to further the UCP’s political agenda. He was fired without cause while dealing with the death of his wife,” said Reynolds. “This is undue interference in the running of Athabasca University and is a danger to the needed arm’s length relationship with the government of the day.”

Reynolds said CUPE Local 3911 members have always worked from home few if any will move to Athabasca. “Firing Dr. Scott will intensify the problems that exist and will create labour unrest.”

CUPE Local 3911 is the only trade union in Alberta consisting wholly of academic instructors. We are part-time, hired to teach specific courses in our academic fields under the direction of faculty coordinators, with whom we have the same credentials. This arrangement allows Athabasca University the economic flexibility to have a low ratio of faculty to students while still maintaining academic rigour.

“Greedy and hypocritical”

Company owned by a pension plan taking away its own workers’ pension plan

CALGARY – DynaLIFE Labs, a company contracted by the Alberta government to privatize health care services, is trying to take away a pension plan from its employees. The twist? DynaLIFE’s majority shareholder is the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS), a pension plan serving over half a million Canadians.

In 2022, Alberta’s UCP government awarded DynaLIFE the contract to take over Alberta Precision Lab services. Over 1,000 employees were transferred in early December to the private company. Those employees were members of the Alberta based, Local Authorities Pension Plan (LAPP). The employees are represented by CUPE and the Health Sciences Association of Alberta.

DynaLIFE has made an application to the Alberta Labour Relations Board asking that the terms of the collective agreement covering the transferred employees be changed to remove them from their defined benefit pension plan and replace it with an RRSP contribution plan at a much lower value.

This is déjà vu for some of these employees, who lost pension service when the Alberta government privatized lab services to the same company in 1996. After private lab services proved inadequate to serve the public, the government brought the labs back in-house in 2005.

“If Alberta conservatives can’t understand that public health care is better, the least they can do is not mess with the retirements of people who spend their lives caring for Alberta patients,” said CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill. “The fact this is being done a second time, by a company owned by a pension plan, is galling, uncaring, and just greedy.”

Gill is a member of the Sponsor Board of LAPP and says there is nothing preventing DynaLIFE from applying to be an employer with that plan.

CUPE Ontario is a sponsor of OMERS, and over 125,000 CUPE members working for Ontario municipalities, school districts and healthcare facilities are active members of the pension plan.

CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn says he is appalled to hear about a company owned by OMERS booting workers off their pension plan.

“OMERS board members and their CEO will be hearing from CUPE,” said Hahn. “You can’t be a defined benefit pension plan, encouraging employers and unions to come on board, and invest in anti-worker companies.”

“You either believe in providing a decent, dignified retirement to workers, or you do not. And right now, it looks like OMERS and DynaLIFE do not believe that. That’s hypocritical and unjustifiable.”


Alpha House employees achieve first union contract


Early acrimony led to productive negotiations: CUPE

CALGARY – Employees at a Calgary social services agency have a union contract after a hard organizing battle with accusations of unfair labour practices.

Alpha House is a not-for-profit society providing addiction and housing services to people in Calgary and Lethbridge. About 300 employees joined CUPE in the late spring of 2021.

CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill said that after initial battles with Alpha House during the unionization drive, bargaining proceeded respectfully and employees were able to achieve sought-out scheduling changes.

“With a collective agreement in place, these employees now have the schedules they need to have a better work-life balance,” said Gill.

Gill noted that the social services sector is known for low pay, long hours and unrealistically unsafe working environments. “Our new members have an uphill battle making life better for themselves and their clients – but they’ve taken a few important steps in the right direction.”

CUPE is Canada’s largest union with over 715,000 members nationwide.

Calgary Drop-In Centre workers determined to unionize

Workers at the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre are calling on their colleagues to band together and unionize after facing years of unsafe working conditions, unlivable wages and a lack of fair and transparent hiring practices.

Despite their invaluable community work, Calgary Drop-In staff are severely underpaid. Full-time caseworkers are paid below the Government of Alberta’s Core Needs Income Threshold. Despite being on-call around the clock, service workers do not receive shift premiums when working evening or overnight. At the same time, executive staff are paid salaries between $160,000 and $299,000, according to data from the Canada Revenue Agency.

“We don’t do these jobs for the money. We do them because we care about our communities and supporting society’s most vulnerable, but we still need to eat. We have kept our heads down and remained silent for too long. Something has to change, and the only way we are going to see changes is by banding together,” said a Calgary Drop-In Centre worker whose identity cannot be revealed due to the threat of retaliation from their employer.

Drop-In Centre workers often work with clients with complex mental health issues, many of whom struggle with addiction. Substance abuse issues and drug poisonings have made difficult front-line work even more dangerous and mentally exhausting.

“There are days when workers on the floor are dealing with multiple overdoses and we are simply expected to carry on working without even a break,” said a Calgary Drop-In Centre worker. “We build strong relationships with individuals we work with, and it is heart-breaking and traumatic to find someone you care about has died of an overdose. We don’t have the emotional and mental health supports to work through the trauma associated with that.”

Calgary Drop-In centre employees are fighting for a fair and safe workplace. They have decided to make their union drive public to combat fear and raise awareness among the hundreds of staff that there is a way forward. Workers at the DI and the community are encouraged to reach out to Colette Singh at csingh@cupe.ca and Dominique Damian-Wallace at dominique.dw@gmail.com for more information on how to sign up or regarding the union drive.

City of Chestermere workers vote to unionize

CHESTERMERE – Workers at the City of Chestermere have joined CUPE after an overwhelming majority voted in favour of certification.

CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill welcomed the group into CUPE. “We welcome these workers into the CUPE family,” says CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill. “These workers decided they wanted to have the protection of Canada’s largest union, better treatment from their employer and respect for the services they provide. Today, the ballots have been counted, and the employees’ voices have been heard.”

CUPE Alberta represents approximately 42,000 members in Alberta with over 200 collective agreements.

CUPE Local 4070 Recognizes International Flight Attendants’ Day

Today, May 31st, is International Flight Attendants Day, a day to recognize the spirit and the efforts of flight attendants around the world.

The last couple of years have been particularly challenging for flight attendants. Many have worked through the pandemic, bringing Canadians home and keeping essential travel operating. As things return to normal and travel resumes, flight attendants have welcomed Canadian families and business travellers back to the sky, while ensuring safety protocols and procedures remain in place.

“We’d like to take this day to recognize all of our members for their efforts and dedication through the pandemic. The pandemic brought unique challenges for flight attendants including increased loneliness and isolation on layovers, and immense difficulty balancing work and family responsibilities with limited flexibility and non-existent childcare options,” said CUPE Local 4070 President Crystal Hill.

CUPE represents about 4,000 flight attendants and cabin crew members at Westjet, Encore and Swoop airlines. Though many were laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic, all Local 4070 have since been able to return to the sky.

“We’re so glad our members have been able to return to work safely. However, the new normal has been overwhelming and has brought its own set of issues that affect our members every day. Today is a day to reflect and salute the resiliency of all Local 4070 members at WestJet, WestJet Encore, Swoop, and our Airline Division colleagues.”

To mark the day, CUPE Local 4070 will be recognizing the efforts of flight attendants with gift baskets generously donated by Van Houtte, Bigelow Tea, Master Chocolate, Step Up Comfort, Pocket of Flowers, Rita’s Kitchen, Royal Ontario Museum, Steven Sarasin, Beaded Beginnings, Infinite Alchemy, Siesta Massage Therapy, Tilted Veil, and Prismatic Ash Soap Co.

CUPE Alberta President calls on Albertans to keep fighting

President of CUPE Alberta, Rory Gill released the following statement on Premier Jason Kenney’s resignation.

“Last night, the worst Premier in Alberta’s history resigned. Jason Kenney’s resignation is welcome news, but our fight against the UCP government’s privatization agenda must continue.

Though Jason Kenney is gone, the UCP continues to implement its anti-worker, anti-union, anti-Alberta agenda. The United Conservatives are still pushing ahead with a plan to privatize and dismantle public services. Bill 32, the UCP’s unconstitutional anti-union legislation, remains on the books as a tool for the UCP government to muzzle workers and unions.

It doesn’t matter who the next UCP leader is; the UCP is bad for Alberta and for Alberta workers. It is not focused on the things that matter to Alberta families; it is focused on itself and distracted by its internal disarray and infighting.

We have faced much adversity as a movement, but Jason Kenney’s resignation shows we are making progress and that our voices are being heard. Now, more than ever, we must continue to raise our collective voice. Now is not the time to retreat. We must keep fighting until the UCP is sent packing.”

Dance school shuttered, kids lose out

Fort McMurray – The union representing employees at the MacDonald Island Dance Academy (MIDA) is speaking out about the closure of the school, saying it provides an important and growing service in the city.

Craig Milley, President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 1505 says information provided by MacDonald Island CEO Craig Walsh about the school is “concerning and inaccurate.” Milley says the program was profitable up until COVID hit in March 2020.

The union says a 2021/2022 Business Case projected the Academy to be profitable, and despite the dance season starting a month late in the 2021/2022 season, the overall revenue to date already exceeds last year’s revenue.

“There is no evidence to support the notion that there has been a steady decline in participation and/or registration of the program for several years pre-pandemic,” said Milley. “The numbers show that the program was profitable between 2014 and early 2020.”

The Union and Dance Instructors provided Mr. Walsh with a 12-page Alternate Business Case, which is in accordance with the Collective Agreement, that would increase the marketability of the MIDA program and ensure the sustainability of the program.

“He clearly didn’t want to hear it, he didn’t even meet with the dance instructors and I to review and hear what it was all about,” Milley said.

“It’s about the kids,” he said. “Some of these kids have been with the studio and the same instructors for 10 years. The kids are losing their studio and their instructors, the instructors are losing their jobs, and the community is losing a dance program that was profitable and could continue to be profitable.”

The union is calling for a formal investigation under the Municipal Government Act, of CEO Craig Walsh, for his misleading information and lack of compliance with the terms of the Collective Agreement.

“The public deserves the real story.”