No! to Bill 9 and the Dictate of the Kenney Government"> No! to Bill 9 and the Dictate of the Kenney Government">

Growing Opposition to the Anti-Social Offensive in Alberta

Workers Express a Resounding No! to Bill 9 and the Dictate of the Kenney Government

Picket organized by AUPE Local 95, July 3, 2019, at Foothills Hospital in Calgary.

Information pickets continue to be organized across Alberta to oppose anti-worker Bill 9, the Public Sector Wage Arbitration Deferral Act. Public sector workers demand the government adhere to the provisions in their legally negotiated collective agreements covering 180,000 union members. The contracts required arbitration on a wage-re-opener to take place by June 30. In contravention with the signed agreements negotiated in good faith with public sector unions and without the consent of the workers involved, the government has arbitrarily denied the arbitration to occur by the scheduled date.

Workers expressed their militant stand in defence of their rights in a massive turnout of more than 1,000 workers at an information picket organized by Local 95, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE). Held during lunch hour on July 3 at Foothills Hospital in Calgary, hospital workers represented by AUPE, the United Nurses of Alberta and the Health Sciences Association of Alberta came together on the picket line. Active and retired workers from other sectors also enthusiastically joined in. Together they expressed their stand through chants and messages on their placards: Yes to Good Faith Negotiations! No to Dictate! Defend our Public Services! As one united force of the working class they declared that an attack on the right of public sector workers to a say on their wages and conditions of work is an attack on all workers and the social conditions of all Albertans. The Kenney government's dictate against workers and the social conditions of all is not acceptable and the people do not consent.

Calgary, July 3, 2019

Members of Local 95 worked long and hard to organize the picket and mobilize support to guarantee a successful turnout and a resounding success it was. AUPE organized buses to bring workers from hospitals all across the city to the picket. Many workers facing difficulty arranging time off from work showed determination to join the picket. Hundreds of workers emerged out of Foothills Hospital on their lunch hour to join their voices with others in defence of their rights. Local 95 distributed pizza to ensure no one missed their lunch. The streets outside Foothills Hospital rang out with chants against Bill 9, for workers rights and for the rights of all to health care and other social programs.

Successful pickets were also held in Tofield on June 28, Lamont on July 2, and Leduc Hospital on July 9, as well as in numerous other cities and towns.

Picket at Le Duc hospital, July 9, 2019.

During the picket at Foothills Hospital, Guy Smith AUPE President led off the speeches saying in part, "We have been disrespected by the government of Alberta. You have had your legal rights taken away by the power of a government that thinks it can use the power of the state to crush workers. We are here to tell them you will never crush the will of the people; you will never crush the strength of workers in solidarity. You cannot use the legislative power of the state to take away collective bargaining agreements that are negotiated in good faith and legally binding. Do we really want to see an Alberta where the government can just rip up the deal?"

Smith's question was met with a resounding No!

"In Alberta a deal is a deal, and any government that tries to rip that out of our hands, we will have to take action and we are doing it today folks. We are not the only ones holding pickets. They are taking place across the province. This is just the beginning. When we leave today, go back to your worksites and talk to your fellow workers, tell them we all need to stand together in solidarity against this aggressive bully of a government."

Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare, and a former Vice-President of AUPE said, "The reason we are here is because we believe that your conditions of work are care conditions. If you are not resourced, if you are not staffed, if you are not given the opportunity to do the work that you do on behalf of Albertans day in and day out, then it doesn't work for every single one of us. [...] We will stand by you until this violation of your rights is fixed. This government has the responsibility to provide care. I have not seen this much energy since 2012 when the hospitals were surrounded by workers because you had been told that you were a dime a dozen. We showed them back then that dime-a-dozen people can shut down hospitals. This government needs to be told very clearly that they need to arbitrate, that they need to negotiate at the table, and not legislate. Thank you so much for standing up for Albertans. Thank you so much for standing up for public health and public services and I promise that we will be behind you all the way."

Karen Craik, Provincial Secretary Treasurer of the United Nurses of Alberta said, "Rights belong to all Albertans, not just the rich corporate Albertans. The government has said that they are going to wait for the Blue Ribbon Panel to come out to determine what our wages are worth. We provide care to all Albertans. Even teachers are affected by this legislation. It is all public sector workers, that are under attack here and the government says it is just a slight delay because they need to know what our finances are. But they did not stop cutting the taxes for huge corporations and did not have to wait for the Blue Ribbon Panel results to come in before they made that decision. So they are giving a tax cut to corporations and cutting us. Albertans should not stand for that because every Albertan who gets cut in the public sector means a cut to the services for the average Albertan. I just want to say, Jason Kenney, we are all Albertans, you cannot cut public services because you will cut the care for all Albertans."

Laurel Jackson, a provincial executive member of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta, congratulated AUPE for organizing the picket and said she was overwhelmed by the turnout. Speaking of the Klein government years, she stated with great conviction, "I lived through the 1990s and I will not do that again."

Bonnie Gostola, an AUPE Vice-President from the health care sector thanked all the unions for joining together and for "making sure that our voices are heard and that they matter. Everybody's voice matters here. We are glad and proud of all our members that came out today in support and solidarity for everything that we do every day for Albertans. It doesn't matter if you are a nurse or a teacher, an electrician or a plumber, when you provide a service to Albertans, we matter. When our collective bargaining rights are threatened, we are all under threat, and Albertans are all under threat. That is unacceptable. They are going after our fundamental, constitutional right to bargain in good faith, and this is the time that we need to fight back and show this government that everything we do, every public service is important to every Albertan."

David Choy, Chair of AUPE Local 95, gave heartfelt thanks to everyone who came out to join together to make the picket such a success saying, "We have sent a clear message today, we have shown that we are paying attention, that we can organize; but the government needs to hold up their end of the bargain.

"We need to be asking ourselves, what is next? We need to be prepared to protect our collective bargaining rights. Please inform everyone of what you have seen; visit the AUPE website; use any of the social media platforms available; by standing side by side we cause them to take notice, to pause and think twice. Solidarity forever everybody."

After the speeches, the picket continued for well over an hour, growing in numbers as workers from every department of the hospital joined their fellow health care workers from across the city in demonstrating their determined No! to Bill 9 and all government attacks on workers' rights and the social conditions of the people.

Tofield, June 28, 2019.