Headlines: March 14, 2024

· The Pulse
  • Civic Service Union 52 members are expected to strike at 11am on March 14. CSU 52 said its negotiations with the City of Edmonton have not progressed since union president Lanny Chudyk met with Mayor Amarjeet Sohi on March 12, while city manager Andre Corbould said he doesn't believe "going to a table now, when I don't have more to offer, would be in good faith." Chudyk also criticized a statement on the bargaining process, signed by the mayor and all councillors, saying they are passing the cost of frontline workers onto taxpayers "instead of making some hard choices on discretionary projects." Council's statement has also drawn criticism on social media, including by Speaking Municipally co-host Troy Pavlek, who argued the numbers in the statement are misleading.
  • The leaders of eight large Alberta public sector unions issued a joint statement to Edmonton city council suggesting they are "wittingly or unwittingly" being used by the UCP government to "road test" a back-to-work strategy that could also be used against other public sector unions. According to the letter's signatories, their sources say the province plans to declare the CSU 52 strike an emergency because it involves more than 1,000 Edmonton Police Service staff. "Our sources go on to say that the UCP government will then send the dispute to a so-called Public Emergency Tribunal (PET), which will impose a binding settlement on the workers without negotiation," says the letter. The province's contracts with nearly 248,000 Alberta public sector workers are set to expire in 2024, raising concerns about widespread labour disputes.
  • Edmonton Police Service officers will take over as 911 operators during the Civic Service Union 52 strike. There are 158 CSU 52 members working as civilian emergency communications staff for 911 calls, and about 94% of staff who answer 911 calls are CSU 52 members. Edmonton Police Association president Curtis Hoople said the labour disruption caused "a lot of schedule conflicts," but maintaining 911 response times is the priority. Hoople also said the strike could cost police a significant amount in overtime pay. The police service said it will prioritize assigning officers who are "not in frontline positions" to 911 operator roles, and it is working to "re-certify" officers with previous 911 operator experience.
  • Fort Edmonton Park says it will remain open during the CSU 52 strike, though some disruptions are expected. The Indigenous Peoples Experience Winter Admission will be closed for the remainder of the season, pre-purchased tickets will be refunded, and private event and education bookings may be rescheduled.
  • Crews will begin demolishing the temporary NAIT LRT station on March 18 and will salvage all possible materials for future LRT projects. Demolition work is expected to take two months and result in some weekend LRT service disruptions. Once complete, crews will add landscaping and "architectural elements" to the area, and public art will be installed in 2025. The station was closed after the new NAIT/Blatchford Market LRT station opened in January.
  • A report from city administration on transit ridership and crime found ridership was up 27% in 2023 compared to 2022, while the average crime severity index on transit fell 11% and the average non-violent severity index for LRT and transit centres fell 2%. The results show there is "more reporting and more eyes on the system," said Edmonton Transit Service branch manager Carrie Hotton-MacDonald. Research into perceptions of safety found 63% of riders felt safe throughout their trip in 2023, which was the same result as in 2022.
  • The Edmonton Police Service released photos of suspects they are seeking in connection with a violent attack at the Churchill LRT station in February. Police said of their six suspects, one has been identified and is now the subject of an arrest warrant. Anyone with information can contact police or Crime Stoppers.
  • Public Safety and Emergency Services Minister Mike Ellis introduced a bill to establish a provincial police agency, which would "work alongside police services across the province" and take up policing duties done by Alberta sheriffs. In a news conference, Ellis said the agency would not replace the RCMP, but that the province was expanding the role of sheriffs in case the RCMP withdraw from local policing when its contract expires in 2032. The minister provided no timeline for the proposed agency if the bill passes.
  • Over the past several weeks, Postmedia has published a four-part series exploring the UCP government's plan to break Alberta Health Services into four separate agencies focusing on primary care, acute care, continuing care, and mental health and addictions.