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Could privatization of Alberta lab services lead to fewer worker benefits?

Last month, I wrote a news story regarding the Alberta government awarding the contract of lab testing services to a private company after lobbying from a firm the company had hired.

Last week, I received collective bargaining agreements between the private company, DynaLIFE, and the Health Sciences Association of Alberta, as well as between HSAA and Alberta Public Laboratories, which DynaLIFE will be replacing.

You can read the two agreements here and here.

I thought it would be interesting to compare the two agreements. Keep in mind that neither entity seems to have bargained with their workers for a recent agreement, so both of these CBAs were signed in 2017. Any new agreement DynaLIFE signs with their larger workforce could look different from these ones.

Here are the more significant changes.

Salaries

The salary classifications vary between the two groups, but there are a few positions that share job titles, so I’ll focus on those for differences in salaries.

The APL agreement has up to 9 steps in salary increments. DynaLIFE’s has 8. Rather than list the wages for each step, I’ll list them as ranges.

PositionAPLDynaLIFE
Laboratory technologist I$33.98–44.75$34.03–43.29
Laboratory technologist II$36.81–47.30$38.46–46.84
Laboratory assistant I$22.73–28.34$20.64–26.27
Laboratory assistant II$23.99–30.99$22.04–28.05
Laboratory & X-ray technologist$33.98–44.75$33.82–43.03

Although, DynaLIFE starting salaries are slightly higher for two of the positions, APL starting salaries are higher on the top end for all positions. The difference between the top end of each range varies from $0.46 for lab technologist I and $2.94 for lab & X-ray technologist.

These might not seem like much, but when you multiply it by a 7-hour workday, 5 workdays a week, and 52 weeks a year, the difference can add up to an extra $837.20 and $1,070.16 a year, depending on the position.

Flexible spending account

The flexible spending account is a certain amount of money allocated to each worker that they can then use to pay for various things, such as professional development, health and wellness expenses, RRSP contributions, day care, and transit passes.

Under the APL agreement, HSAA members would receive up to $2,750 a year. HSAA members with DynaLIFE get $1,250 as of January 2021, with a promised increase to $1,500 next year.

Paid vacation time

HSAA workers with APL currently have vacation time under the following schedule:

Years of employmentPaid vacation
1st15 days
2nd through 9th20 days
10th through 19th25 days
20th and beyond30 days

It’s a bit different with those working at DynaLIFE. There, it’s based on how many hours you’ve worked, so you accumulate vacation time as the work year progresses.

For example, during the first year of employment, workers get 1 hour of vacation time for every 17.33 hours worked, which means they wouldn’t see the same 15 vacation days as their APL until they’ve worked an entire year.

So, basically, with APL, HSAA workers get the full 15 days at the start of the year to take anytime during that year, but DynaLIFE workers have to wait for a year to get the same number of days.

Plus, DynaLIFE workers don’t see an increase in the number of vacation days until they’ve worked more years than the APL workers.

Here’s how DynaLIFE’s rates break down

Year of employmentRate of accumulation
1st 1 hour per 17.33 hours worked
2nd through 11th1 hour per 13 hours worked
12th through 24th1 hour per 10.4 hours worked
25th and beyond1 hour per 8.7 hours worked

Sick leave

The APL agreement provides up to 120 working days of paid sick leave. DynaLIFE’s agreement maxes out at roughly 85 paid working days. That’s more than a month less than APL’s.

Pension

APL agreed to contribute the equivalent of 7% of the worker’s pay into the Calgary Lab Services Defined Contribution Pension Plan each month.

DynaLIFE, on the other hand, agreed to contribute up to 4% for workers who have been employed with the company for 4 years or less and up to 5% for those over 4 years.

HSAA workers with APL also had the option to sign onto the Local Authorities Pension Plan.

Bereavement Leave

Under the DynaLIFE agreement, workers received up to 4 days of bereavement pay for immediate family members. APL provided 5 days for most family members and 3 days for in-laws and grandparents.

Maternity leave

HSAA workers with APL get 16 weeks of maternity leave and can start as early as 13 weeks from the expected delivery date. At DynaLIFE, workers get up to 18 weeks but have to wait until 12 weeks from the expected delivery date.

Both employers provided 16 weeks for workers whose pregnancy ends for reasons other than a live birth.

Shift differentials

These are additional wages for workers who have to work evenings and weekends.

For both employers, workers get the same rate: $2.75/hour for early evening, $5.00/hour for late evening, and $3.25/hour for weekends. Where the agreements differ, however, is what qualifies as a shift.

ShiftAPLDynaLIFE
Early evening ($2.75)15:00–23:0016:00–23:00
Late evening ($5.00)23:00–07:0023:00–07:00
Weekends ($3.25)15:00 Fri – 07:00 Mon18:00 Fri – 00:00 Mon

Both employers allow for stacking of differentials (for example, if you work a night shift on a weekend).

Those are the differences that stuck out to me between the two agreements.

Now, keep in mind that both agreements are over 4 years old. DynaLIFE’s expires next March, and APL’s expired last September, but HSAA and AHS agreed to delay bargaining until this past spring.

So it’ll be interesting to see how bargaining plays out for both groups, considering they will both be part of the same group in a few months.

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By Kim Siever

I live in Lethbridge with my spouse and 4 of our 6 children. I’m a writer, focusing on political news, social issues, and the occasional poem. My politics are radically left.

I’m also dichotomally Mormon. And I’m a functional vegetarian: I have a blog post about that somewhere around here. My pronouns are he/him, and I’m queer.

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