Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Alberta and Its Government Employees Reach Contract Deal

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Alberta and Its Government Employees Reach Contract Deal

Article excerpt

Alberta, government employees reach contract deal

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EDMONTON - The Alberta government reached a new contract agreement with its largest public sector union Monday following months of bitter negotiations and court challenges.

"This has undoubtedly been the most challenging round of negotiations that AUPE has ever been engaged in," Guy Smith, president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, told a news conference.

"It's a deal that we can hold our heads high."

Smith declined to provide details of the tentative four-year deal, saying the union's 22,000 members need to be told first. They will vote on the deal in the coming weeks.

Smith would only say that "significant areas of the collective agreement that have not been touched upon for many, many years have been improved on."

Premier Dave Hancock, in a statement, said he will urge his cabinet to ratify the contract as well.

He said a meeting with Smith last week was critical to getting an agreement.

"It was important that we were able to have that dialogue and that our negotiating teams were able to move forward," said Hancock.

"Our preferred option has always been to find a solution at the bargaining table, and we've been able to do that."

Smith said Hancock's personal intervention broke the log jam.

"It's a very encouraging sign when a sitting premier sits down, recognizes, listens, and respectfully tries to deal with the issues that we brought up," said Smith.

"Over the past year -- and longer -- I was trying to get a similar meeting with former premier (Alison) Redford, but was never given that opportunity."

The agreement is a ray of harmony after a storm of acrimony.

AUPE has been without a contract since March 2013.

When the two sides couldn't reach a deal last summer, AUPE filed for binding arbitration.

Binding arbitration was granted to AUPE decades ago in return for it not being legally allowed to strike. …

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