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Alberta physicians reject new master agreement with provincial government

Last Updated Mar 31, 2021 at 8:21 am MDT

EDMONTON – Alberta’s doctors have rejected a proposed new master agreement aimed at resolving a year’s worth of acrimony over pay and working conditions with the provincial government.

Sources have told The Canadian Press the deal has been rejected by physicians with the Alberta Medical Association who had been voting for weeks on whether to ratify.

A simple majority was required to pass the agreement, which had been brokered by both the association’s senior leadership and Health Minister Tyler Shandro.

Neither side has released the contents of the proposal, but details obtained by The Canadian Press specify that the collective baseline pay for the 11,000 doctors would remain static at about $4.6 billion a year through the four years of the deal.

Doctors would also have given up the right to third-party arbitration, previously considered to be critical leverage in bargaining given that physicians can’t hit the picket line for ethical reasons.

The physicians and the government have been at loggerheads since Shandro unilaterally tore up the previous master agreement in early 2020, saying a new pact was critical to keeping the health system financially viable and sustainable.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro calls the results disappointing. He said the government will seek to renew its relationship with the AMA, which represents 11,000 physicians.

The two sides have been butting heads since early 20-20 after Shandro unilaterally cancelled the master agreement with the association.

He also implemented new fees that doctors called heavy-handed, unfair, and liable to force some family practices to close.

In response, doctors began withdrawing services and the association sued the province.

The two sides eventually returned to the table and hammered out a tentative agreement that was presented to members on Feb. 26 to vote on.