EDMONTON -- Finance Minister Travis Toews is accusing the United Nurses of Alberta of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic in its decision to refuse to delay bargaining with the province.

Negotiations were paused at the beginning of the pandemic and were set to resume after Oct. 15. According to the ministry, Alberta Health Services proposed delaying bargaining to focus on the pandemic.

But officials with the UNA said the union doesn’t want to delay the process. Director of labour relations David Harrigan told CTV News Edmonton that in addition to the expired contract, there are COVID-specific provisions that they would like to discuss.

In a written statement, Toews accused the union of rejecting stability during the pandemic.

“UNA’s overreaching and disingenuous demand for indefinite job security is a shameful effort to take advantage of a health crisis,” Toews said in a statement.

Harrigan said this is misleading; The union wants a commitment from the government to freeze layoffs until a deal is reached, not indefinitely.

“The government has had a long-standing war with doctors and now they want to spread it out and start a war with nurses, start misleading the public as to what’s going on, and we just think this is the worst time to do that,” Harrigan told CTV News Edmonton. “We’re in the middle of the pandemic, we’ve got two hospitals that are having outbreaks, now is the time for some stability.”

The UNA represents more than 30,000 nurses and allied workers in Alberta.