October 21, 2014 - No. 84
October 27 Alberta By-Elections
All Out to Defend the Modern Rights
Health Care and Seniors' Care
-- An Election Issue
October 27 Alberta By-Elections
• All Out to Defend the Modern Rights to
Health Care and Seniors' Care
-- An Election Issue
• The Clash of Rights
• Stop the Privatization of
Edmonton Hospital Labs -- An Election Issue!
- Peggy Morton
• The Right to Bargain Terms of Employment Is
an Election Issue
• More Fraudulent Claims
the Prentice Government
• Health Care Workers Rally at Jim
Prentice's Calgary Office
• All-Candidates Forum on
Health Care for the Edmonton-Whitemud Constituency
October 27 Alberta By-Elections
All Out to Defend the Modern Rights to Health
and Seniors' Care -- An Election Issue
Health care workers, professionals and seniors,
and their organizations are in action to oppose the Prentice
government's wrecking of public health care. They are taking a stand
against the privatization of Edmonton and area health care lab services
and seniors' care, and attacks on the rights of health care workers
and refusal of employers to bargain in good faith. Privatization,
attacks on workers rights and refusal to bargain in good faith are
wrecking of public healthcare.
Wrecking is also taking place through
disinvestment in public health care, which the government attempts to
cover up using fraudulent announcements of supposed fixes for the
problems it continues to create. The Alberta government claims to
increase health care budgets every year but is actually reducing them
by failing to even invest in health care at a rate to cover inflation
plus population growth. In addition, when services are privatized, the
private owners seize the added-value created by health care workers,
which then cannot be reinvested in the health care system or other
The problems are well-known: long waits for
emergency treatment, surgery and specialist appointments, over-crowded
emergency rooms, and a crisis for frail seniors who need modern and
humane seniors' care including nursing home or long-term care. Health
care workers face attacks on their wages and working
conditions and their right to security in retirement. Union-busting to
deprive workers of their defence organizations is also increasing, most
recently at Shepherd's Care in Edmonton.
In the by-elections on October 27, a defeat for
the PCs and keeping Wildrose out will contribute to blocking the
wrecking of public health care, seniors' care and public services and
will be a resounding No to Austerity! Now is the
time to step up the work to defeat the PCs and keep Wildrose out. Start
a phone tree, and talk to family, three friends or co-workers and ask
them to do the same to encourage everyone who lives in the ridings
where the by-elections are taking place to take a stand against the
PC/Wildrose austerity agenda in the October 27 by-elections.
The Clash of Rights
Health care workers and their unions, and
and their organizations continue to resist the attacks on their rights.
Their resistance plays a crucial role in blocking the wrecking of
public health care. An increasing number of physicians are speaking
out, exposing the fraudulent announcements of the government
and standing up for their patients. This resistance represents the
conviction of Canadians that governments must take up their
responsibility to provide the right to health care, and security and
dignity in retirement with a guarantee.
The neo-liberal agenda is
clashing with the modern
demand for a society in which rights are provided with a guarantee.
Health care and seniors' care are modern rights for all, rights that
people have by virtue of being human. The old outlook that the right to
private profit should prevail over the rights of the actual
producers and the public interest is clashing with the demand for a
modern society based on affirming and guaranteeing the rights of all,
not just those with wealth and privilege.
The clash of rights - the rights which belong to
people by virtue of being human vs. monopoly right is a fight to remove
the block to the development of society. The neo-liberal agenda
considers health care and everything else as a market in which private
interests must be guaranteed the "right" to seize as their private
profit the added-value created by those who are the actual producers of
goods and services.
The aim of these monopolies
is to increase the
return on their investment in the shortest possible time, which propels
them to attack the rights of health care workers, degrade health care
services and demand that the state guarantee their profits, leading to
yet more plunder of the public treasury by private interests.
Health care workers who have skill, knowledge, and experience are
blocked from solving problems while the governments representing
monopoly right keep on wrecking even what has been established, such as
the Edmonton and area public health care lab services and seniors' care.
The development of public health care was an
important step forward in Canadian nation-building. But today the
global monopolies are engaged in nation-wrecking and destruction of the
assets built up by the working people in a feverish attempt to prolong
their system and retain their class privilege. This life
and death fight against retrogression and privilege is not only to
defend the social programs we have, but also of necessity, to fight to
bring into being a modern society fit for human beings.
The duty of the working class and its allies is to
organize consciously a battle to defend the rights of all and win their
empowerment over economic and political affairs. A modern public
authority and system of democratic governance with the power to deprive
the forces of obsolete class privilege of their power
to deprive people of their rights and block democratic renewal must be
brought into being.
Block the Privatization of Edmonton and Area Public Health Care Lab
and Seniors' Care!
Defeat the PC/Wildrose Austerity Agenda in the October 27 By-elections!
Stop the Privatization of Edmonton Hospital Labs
-- An Election Issue!
Sonic Healthcare announced on
October 16 that it
has been selected by the Prentice government as the "preferred
proponent" for the privatization of hospital laboratory services in
Edmonton and the surrounding area. Negotiations will now begin for the
final contract to build a $3 billion "super lab" in Edmonton.
The announcement was immediately met with the demand to stop this
outrageous pay the rich scheme. Everyone should work to
defeat the health minister Stephen Mandel in
Edmonton-Whitemud, as well as all the Tory and Wildrose privatizers
running in the by-elections. Let's go all out to force the PC
government to reverse its decision and instead build publicly owned and
controlled medical labs.
The private monopoly Sonic Healthcare is
Australia's largest provider of medical testing, with fifty
subsidiaries and 26,000 employees operating in eight countries. This
will be its first contract in Canada. Sonic's rapid growth shows the
extent to which putting labs in private monopoly hands drains value
from the health care system, community and Canada, and into the coffers
of private monopolies.
Sonic was a failing penny stock mining company
when it purchased Douglass Laboratories Pty Ltd in 1987. Since the
1990s, when private interests began to gobble up the Australian health
care system, Sonic has grown from a company whose shares were almost
worthless to a corporation with annual revenue
of close to $3.5 billion, net profits of $385 million in 2013-14, and a
14.9 per cent return on equity. This wealth in private hands all comes
from the value produced by lab workers, and seized by the owners of
Sonic and unavailable for public use. The Edmonton super-lab, like
Sonic's other schemes, is to be built
and operated with Sonic's expected level of private profit guaranteed
by the state.
The contract with Alberta Health Services (AHS) is
so profitable that Sonic expects initial annual gross income in excess
of $200 million, an amount which would boost its total annual profits
by around 50 per cent. The anticipated contract term is 15 years, or $3
billion over the life of the contract, with an option
for AHS to extend the agreement for a further term. Under the terms of
the Request for Proposals, Sonic will finance both the land and
building of the superlab. The public treasury will repay the winning
bidder the fixed capital investment with interest and in addition
guarantee a profit from operating the enterprise.
If the 15-year contract is not renewed, the company is guaranteed that
the land and equipment will be bought back from it even though the
government will already have paid the winning company the invested
capital with interest, not to speak of the operating profit, which is
lost to the public. It is theft from the
public treasury to pay the rich!
Sonic makes no bones about the fact that the aim
to maximize profits trumps all other considerations. FOM points out
that Sonic's website states, "The board of Sonic Healthcare continues
to place great importance on the governance of the company which it
believes is vital to its well-being and success. There
are two elements to the governance of companies: performance and
conformance. Both are important, but it is critical that focus on
conformance does not detract from the principal function of a business,
which is to undertake prudent activities to generate rewards for
shareholders who invest their capital." (Wikipedia
defines conformance as how well something, such as a product or system,
meets a specified standard; TML Editor.)
The seizure of added-value created by laboratory
workers and professionals by this private monopoly comes at the expense
of the workers themselves, their communities, the safety and well-being
of patients, the possibilities to reinvest the added-value in public
health care and other social programs, and the general
interests of society.
Such pay the rich schemes reveal an economic
system in crisis and in need of a new direction. Stopping and reversing
the privatization of public services and the handing over of public
funds, infrastructure and guarantees to private interests are election
issues. These schemes should be recognized as forms of
corruption and should be banned by law. Instead, the value generated
within social programs and public services such as lab services must
stay within the health system for reinvestment to enhance public
services and look after the well-being of health care workers. Let's
demand that all Edmonton medical lab services
become publicly owned and administered.
1. For more
information, see Stop the
Privatization of Public Services and Social
Programs! No to Plans to Privatize Hospital Labs! and Keep Edmonton
Hospital Labs Public!, TML
Daily, April 30, 2014.
2. Medical laboratory services in Edmonton are
at present a mix of public and private ownership and control.
Hospital-based labs were privatized in 1996 and brought back under
public control in 2005. Medical labs in the community were
traditionally owned by groups of pathologists but are now under control
of huge monopolies. Community-based labs are operated by DynaLIFE, a
partnership wholly owned by LifeLabs, the fourth largest laboratory
company in the world, and Gamma Dynacare, a subsidiary of LabCorp, the
second largest laboratory company in the United States. DynaLIFE's
contract expires in March,
to Demand Good Faith Negotiations
The Right to Bargain Terms of Employment
Is an Election Issue
care workers at Minister of Health Stephen Mandel's campaign office
and across Alberta,
October 16, 2014. (HSAA)
More than 100 health care workers rallied in front
of Health Minister Stephen Mandel's campaign office on October 16
demanding that Mandel instruct Alberta Health Services (AHS) to enter
into good faith negotiations. Mandel was appointed Health Minister
despite not having a seat in the legislature, and is
running for the Edmonton-Whitemud seat in the Oct. 27 by-elections. The
pickets were organized by the Health Sciences Association of Alberta
(HSAA). HSAA also held information pickets at nine AHS sites around the
province during the noon hour on October 16.
HSAA represents 17,000 health care professionals
employed by AHS, including paramedics,
physiotherapists, occupational therapists, respiratory therapists, lab
and diagnostic imaging technicians, social workers, pharmacists, health
records analysts, dieticians and others. HSAA members have
been without a collective agreement since March 31, 2014.
HSAA has now
filed for mediation, after the AHS
stated that it was not prepared to present its proposals for any
monetary issues. After seven months of negotiations, the AHS refuses to
put forward its offer for wages or benefits.
"We're here to tell Stephen Mandel, who is our
health minister who is not elected, Alberta Health Services needs to
get a mandate from government to negotiate with 17,000 of our members
who are waiting for a contract," HSAA president Elisabeth Ballermann
said at the rally at Mandel's office.
"[Health care workers] work hard on the front
lines caring for Albertans every day, but their efforts are clearly not
being valued. Mr. Mandel and Premier Jim Prentice are playing politics
instead of managing health care. Our members are fed up," Ballermann
Shift scheduling is also an important issue in
negotiations, HSAA informs. Many of the health care technicians and
professionals represented by HSAA work shifts. The HSAA proposals
regarding the ability to book off time in lieu of overtime, flexibility
in shift scheduling, vacation scheduling and resources
for personal and professional development are important for the health
and well-being of the workers, and to mitigate the negative effects of
The Prentice government would do well to take note
that workers and their allies have shown very clearly they are not
going to stand for the use of force and violence in place of good-faith
negotiations. Public sector workers including health care workers
forced the government to back down from its arrogant
stand that it can abuse its power whenever it pleases and no one can
hold it to account. The government was forced to retreat on its attack
on pensions. It has not enacted the anti-worker Bill 45 even though the
government used its majority to ram the Bill through the legislature.
Bill 46 was rendered null and void
when the government was forced to retreat and negotiate with the
Alberta Union of Provincial Employees.
Workers have the right to wages, benefits and
working conditions commensurate with their work and qualifications and
the right to decide what is acceptable. Fighting for the conditions
they require in order to perform the important work they carry out day
in and day out is an important defence of the right to
health care, because the rights to health care and the rights of those
who provide care and services are interdependent and cannot be
separated. Their fight deserves the support of all Albertans.
The right to bargain terms of employment is an
election issue in the provincial by-elections. Let's go all out to
defeat the PC/Wildrose anti-worker austerity agenda in the October 27
More Fraudulent Claims by the Prentice Government
Alberta's unelected Premier Jim Prentice and
Health Minister Stephen Mandel held a press conference in Edmonton on
October 13 to announce with great fanfare that the provincial
government will open 464 "continuing care spaces" over the next year.
They said the new spaces would ease pressure in hospital
emergency departments and open up more acute care beds. They also
promised to "fast-track" the construction of up to 300 more spaces
already in the capital plan.
The announcement was fraud from beginning to end
and one more proof that the PC government does not have any intention
of speaking truthfully and even less of actually solving a single
problem. Instead, the announcement was designed to convince people that
the government has it all in hand and people
should continue to allow their fate to be decided by these
representatives of the most powerful monopolies.
The 464 beds are not new at all. Some have been
closed by the province and will be re-opened, while others are in
luxury retirement homes and available only to those who can pay. The
announcement that 300 beds will be fast-tracked is nothing but
fast-talk from the Premier. The capital plan called for 700 new
continuing care beds for 2013-2014, but no funding has been approved
and no construction
started. Now we are told that 300 will be "fast-tracked" -- whatever
Prentice stated that 149 "continuing care beds"
will open in Edmonton. He specifically mentioned 68 supportive living
beds in Lewis Estates and 22 long-term care and hospice beds at Foyer
Lacombe in the suburb of St. Albert. Lewis Estates Retirement Residence
is owned by All Seniors Care Living Centres.
The facility provides what it calls "gracious retirement living"
starting at more than $45,000 a year for a senior in a one-bedroom
suite. This does not include the health care not provided in a facility
designated as "supportive living." "Supportive living" includes only
minimal nursing care.
Lewis Estates also has a closed unit for seniors
with dementia. Sixty-eight units will now be designated assisted
living, which may assist the private owners to increase occupancy and
fill their vacancies. The average senior in Alberta had a pre-tax
income of $32,700, and the average public services Local Authorities
Pension Plan retiree had an income of about $30,000 in 2013, making
these beds out of reach of most seniors.
Foyer Lacombe is a retirement home for priests and
members of religious orders, which announced in September that it would
close one wing because of "dropping members' numbers and high health
care costs." AHS will now take over the wing, which has only 13 empty
The fraud continues when it comes to the
announcements about Calgary, where two sites were mentioned, Rouleau
Manor in Calgary and Millrise. Intercare @ Millrise is run by Intercare
Corporate Group and is currently operating. It is not a new facility.
Rouleau Manor was opened at the Holy Cross Centre
in 2011 with 77 long-term care beds for seniors with dementia. It was
closed in 2013 after the flood and will now be reopened.
A second part of the announcement was that funding
would be provided for the Affordable Living Supportive Initiative. This
program provides funding to municipalities, community organizations,
Métis settlements, local housing authorities and private
for "supportive living." In recent years more
and more of the funding has been allocated to provide subsidies for
private corporate interests. The AHS plan called for 700 such spaces in
2013-14 but no funding has been awarded to date. Now the government has
announced that it will "re-designate" this funding. Prentice also
stated that 1400 new spaces would
be built between now and 2016-17, which is a sharp decrease from the
700 a year in the government's 2010 plan. In sum, all the announcements
are actually a cut from previously announced spaces for seniors.
So much for the claims that Prentice is a man who
listens, and to whom you can talk. The working people have no interest
in a discussion where the intent is to conceal the truth in order to
wash government's hands of its responsibility to provide seniors with
dignity and security in retirement. Working people
have their own independent thinking and pro-social program and
human-centred direction for the economy, which they are determined to
bring into fruition.
Health Care Workers Rally at Jim Prentice's
Friday, October 24 -- 12:00 - 1:00 pm
Campaign office of unelected Premier Jim Prentice
#122, 11988 Symons Valley Road NW
picket, October 16, 2014. (HSAA)
Join HSAA members at the rally Oct. 24th to draw
public attention to the labour dispute and the impacts on patient care.
Please bring your banners, signs, and flags.
Negotiations between Alberta Health Services (AHS)
and Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) broke down on
Tuesday, October 7, 2014. AHS has informed HSAA that it does not have a
mandate to discuss wages or any other monetary items. The previous
agreement expired March
HSAA has applied for mediation and is holding AHS
mismanagement and political paralysis accountable for the failure. HSAA
members are rallying to draw public attention to the labour dispute and
the impacts on patient care.
For more information, please contact Ishani Weera,
AFL Organizing and Outreach.
All-Candidates Forum on Health Care for
Wednesday, October 22 -- 7 pm
Riverbend United Church, 14907 - 45
Whitemud Citizens for Public