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Nurses' golden benefits must be reined in: Taxpayers Federation

February 05, 2020
Nurses' golden benefits must be reined in: Taxpayers Federation
  • UNA nurses receive two pensions, unfair overtime pay and extra top-up bonuses

CALGARY, ABThe Canadian Taxpayers Federation is calling on the Alberta government to rein in the United Nurses of Alberta’s golden benefits during the on-going labour negotiations.

“Not only are Alberta’s government nurses receiving big salaries compared to their counterparts in other provinces, they’re also receiving golden benefits that must be scaled back,” said Franco Terrazzano, Alberta Director for the CTF. “Premier Jason Kenney needs to pull Albertans out of the $70-billion debt hole and reining in these golden benefits is the perfect place to start.”

The CTF released government data obtained through freedom of information requests that shows UNA nurses are receiving exorbitant benefits, such as:

  • Double pensions: In addition to receiving a defined benefit pension plan, which is described as “quite generous” by the pension plan, UNA nurses are also receiving matching RRSP or TFSA contributions from taxpayers up to two per cent of a nurse’s earnings. The second pension could add more than $1,850 every year to the compensation of top registered nurses.
  • Unfair overtime pay for part-time nurses: Part-time nurses have specific days-off built into their schedules, known as Designated Days of Rest. Any hours worked on those days trigger double-time pay, even if the part-time nurse hasn’t worked full-time hours. This policy has cost taxpayers more than $77 million since 2014 and increased the salaries of recipient nurses by about $4,000 on average in 2018, according to a freedom of information request obtained by the CTF.

  • Top-up bonuses: Full-time UNA nurses receive additional lump sum payments of $1,750 every year. The estimated cost of these lump sum payments for full-time nurses is about $20 million every year (based on 43 per cent of Alberta nurses being full-time and number of AHS UNA nursing positions). The total cost of the program is higher as part-time and casual nurses (57 per cent of Alberta’s nurses) also receive these top-up bonuses, which are prorated based on hours worked. There is no rationale provided in the Letter of Understanding between the government and the UNA as to why this extra payment exists.

A top UNA registered nurse is eligible for about $20,000 in “benefits/pension/lump sum” payments every year, according to government data obtained through freedom of information requests.

These benefits are in addition to high salaries. For all five UNA nursing positions government data was provided for (licensed practical nurses are not under UNA), Alberta’s maximum hourly salary rates are higher than those in every other province, except for one type of position in Ontario (graduate nurse).

“Most Albertans would be laughed out of the room if we approached our boss demanding these types of benefits,” said Terrazzano. “It’s not fair to make struggling taxpayers continue to pay for golden benefits on-top of high Alberta government salaries.”

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