Major union prepares for “historic” contract talks

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The largest union in Alberta says 2017 will be a historic year as 75,000 of its members are expected to enter negotiations – but will the organization decide to exercise its newly-won right to strike?

“With that newly established right comes responsibility to use it prudently and make sure that all it does is allow us, if necessary, if negotiations break down, to have resources and rights that we didn't have before,” said Guy Smith, president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE).

“So we are not going and storming the barricades saying; 'Yes, we are going to walk off the job,” he promised. “I don't think our members are in that kind of mood.”

Earlier this year, the Alberta government revoked a long-standing ban on public-sector strikes, granting more than 150,000 public sector workers the power to walk out.

Edmonton-based Smith suggested he was sympathetic towards the notoriously cash-strapped NDP government and said it was likely talks wouldn’t focus primarily on wages.

“We do now have a government, I think, that is much more aware of the other issues that we bring to the table other than monetary issues – working conditions, workload, and the other things that need to be addressed in the collective agreements,” he told the Canadian Press.

“We need to be creative in terms of developing proposal language that addresses numerous issues that over the years the previous governments have completely ignored,” he continued.

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