UNA’s first voluntary PRC mediation yields partial success and hope for improvement

United Nurses of Alberta has taken part in its first voluntary mediation to resolve a longstanding Professional Responsibility Concern under the process outlined in Article 36 of the union’s new Provincial Collective Agreement.

UNA views the process involving Covenant Health’s Community Geriatric Psychiatry Program as a partial success, said PRC Advisor Joshua Bergman. Five of seven specific union recommendations were agreed to during the October 4 mediation, and agreement was reached on how to deal with two others over a longer time frame, he explained.

The mediation stemmed from PRCs filed about problems in the program, which serves seniors throughout the Greater Edmonton area, beginning in 2013 when demand for seniors’ community mental health services began to grow enough to require a wait list for the first time.

Nurses in UNA Local 11 in west Edmonton, where the CGP Program is based, first filed PRCs in June 2013, not- ing reduction of services, excessive case- loads, clients waiting up to five weeks for assessments, and technology concerns. Since then, as the wait list continued to grow, nurses were required to work at overcapacity.

An additional PRC was filed in 2014 and the process continued into 2015, when UNA requested a meeting with Covenant’s CEO. That meeting took place, but many of Local 11’s concerns remained unresolved.

As a result, in 2016 UNA requested a meeting with Covenant’s governing board, which also failed to bring resolution. Last year, UNA President Heather Smith wrote Health Minister Sarah Hoffman outlining the unresolved concerns.

Hoffman responded in December 2017, explaining the government’s priorities, and throughout 2018 there have been communications between UNA and Covenant on the status of the employer’s ongoing review of the service.

In May 2018, UNA made the formal request for voluntary mediation under Article 36 of the new collective agreement.

At the end of the October 4 meeting, the parties had agreed to:

  • Post and replace all vacant positions in the program in a timely manner, making efforts to ensure a two week overlap for orientation, and if possi- ble, hiring casual staff to help cover illness or other leaves.
  • The Employer will revisit the pro- gram providing post-hospital follow up to all Edmonton area hospitals with inpatient mental health units. Currently, the program only provides post-hospital follow up to patients discharged from Villa Caritas and the Glenrose.
  • The parties will work together to provide a psychologically safe work environment for all staff.
  • The Employer will endeavor to make staff assignments that allow allied health disciplines the ability to per- form discipline specific consults.
  • Implement an Employee- Management Advisory Committee (EMAC) to provide an ongoing mechanism to deal with outstanding and new concerns.
  • On October 1, 2019, the union will revisit if it believes an increase of FTE is still necessary and if so, a new PRC may be filed.
    Unfortunately, Covenant did not agree to adding more RN/RPN full-time equivalents – as managers had indicated they would do during discussions in 2014 and 2015.
  • However, the parties agreed to continue to try to resolve those issues through the EMAC.

“We are hoping this will be a step toward a more collaborative relationship and that the soon-to-be-established EMAC will provide a fresh start for everyone,” said Local 11 President Stephanie Taylor.

“The work is not done yet, but we would not have gotten this far without you,” she said in a message to Local members.