75,000 AUPE members will head into contract negotiations in 2017, armed with legislation that gives them the right to strike.
AUPE President Guy Smith, however, says the union is in no hurry to a strike as a cudgel to squeeze a big raise from the cash-strapped NDP government. “There are challenges because of the economic environment. No doubt about it. We know a lot of workers, especially private sector workers are suffering out there because of the downturn in the oil industry. But we also know it provides opportunities because we do now have a government that is much more aware of the other issues that we bring to the table other than monetary issues.” Smith says the union’s emphasis in bargaining could focus more on improvements to working conditions and workload instead of wages.
But the AUPE boss say the right to strike will still be a factor. “We’re gearing up for our biggest round of bargaining in our history. The landscape has changed significantly since legislation has come in recognizing the constitutional right to strike for our members. So that levels the playing field.”