10/21/2013 04:10 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Union members vote yes to government-mediated settlement with Extendicare

RED DEER, Alta. - Union members at eight Extendicare seniors care facilities in Alberta have ratified a settlement recommended by a government-imposed disputes inquiry board in September.

Human Services Minister Dave Hancock imposed the board just hours after the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees served strike notice when the employer backed out of mediation.

Union negotiator Kevin Davediuk says the board addressed a number issues that the members felt were important.

The agreement affects 1,200 members who work as licensed practical nurses, health care aides and general support staff in Red Deer, Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge, Athabasca and Mayerthorpe.

The two-year contract gives employees a minimum three per cent salary increase per year.

During bargaining for a three-year contract, Extendicare had offered no increase in the first year, one per cent in the second and two per cent in the third.

Davediuk said the report also ruled in the union's favour to maintain the 120-day sick leave plan. Extendicare wanted it reduced to 14 days.

He said the plan gives full-time employees approximately 18 sick days a year and allows them to eventually bank up to 120 unused days to be used in lieu of a short-term disability plan.

"It's like a sick-time banking system that keeps rolling forward. But if you get sick or need to use some of the days, the bank goes down. It takes numerous years before you get to 120 days.

"A lot of health-care contracts don't have provisions for short-term disability," Davediuk said.

Pay for main holidays were also maintained with some improvements for part-time staff.

Votes were held at each of the eight Extendicare worksites between Oct. 3 and 16.

Davediuk said there was a very strong turnout and the contract received a strong majority vote.

Extendicare ratified the recommendations on Oct. 2.

(Red Deer Advocate)