Alberta Government's Mass Layoffs of Health Care Workers

The Need to Raise the Demand to Stop Paying the Rich Becomes Increasingly Urgent

The government of Jason Kenney in Alberta is using its majority to hand over as much of Alberta as possible to private interests in the most egregious way possible. On October 13, in the midst of soaring cases of COVID-19, Minister of Health Tyler Shandro confirmed that the government is proceeding with the layoff of 11,000 health care workers and that one sector after another of the health system will be privatized.

Laundry services in rural Alberta will be the first service to be privatized, eliminating 400 jobs in communities hard-hit by the economiccrisis. Medical labs across the province are to be contracted out to one of the companies comprising the global medical laboratory cartel, resulting in 2,000 layoffs. Alberta Health Services will continue reducing the number of nurses in the system through attrition during the pandemic and proceed with layoffs to eliminate the equivalent of 500 full-time registered nursing positions, affecting 750 nurses, once the pandemic is declared over. Apparently the contracting out of housekeeping and food services will be delayed because of the pandemic, but will also proceed with 4,000 housekeeping jobs and 3,000 food services jobs to be eliminated.

The United Conservative Party (UCP) claims that the privatization of these jobs will save $600 million but even Minister Shandro admitted that this depends on the contracts yet to be negotiated and signed with the private interests. The usual practice is to pay the private corporations even more while these narrow private interests pay the workers much less than the standards which currently exist. They do not adequately train workers and they downgrade the working conditions and services provided.

All of this is done during the COVID-19 pandemic which itself illustrates how the privatization measures and downgrading of services and treatment of the workers exacerbate the health care crisis. It is unconscionable.

What the Alberta government is doing is a good example of why at this time Canadians must not confer majority governments to any party seeking to come to power. They rule with impunity to push pay-the-rich schemes and simply run roughshod over those among the working people and population who are affected by their decisions.

Privatization is all about the rich seizing the decision-making power to take over the public domain. The state is restructured so that any public authority whatsoever is eliminated. This means the people have no recourse within the system to hold governments or the private employers, whose ownership is often not even known, to account.

The damage to Canada's social fabric is irreparable. As if the layoffs announced on October 8 are not damaging enough, a draft leaked to the CBC is said to contain many other draconian measures including legislated cuts to wages, elimination of physician clinic stipends and other additional cuts, increases to accommodation fees for seniors in continuing care, introduction of a co-pay for home care, and shifting more patients from long-term care to designated supportive living. It also includes potential consolidation of rural hospital services, including emergency departments and closure of some diagnostic imaging and laboratory sites, with more layoffs. This would force rural residents to travel longer distances for services. Once the government learned that the CBC had a copy of the draft, the Minister of Health called a hasty press conference, and produced a “new draft” in which almost everything but the layoffs suddenly disappeared. Not only have sweeping draconian measures been drafted under the direction of the corporation infamous for serving narrow private interests E&Y, but the government is now attempting to conceal its plans.

If people do not agree to submit to the decisions to privatize health care, they are threatened with violence. It is unsustainable. It shows that the people must take up the challenge of how to hold governments to account. The main battle at this time must take place in the court of public opinion with the workers themselves and their defence organizations and political formations speaking out against the announced measures and in favour of alternatives. This is courageously being done across the country and must be stepped up further.

This article was published in

Number 70 - October 15, 2020

Article Link:
Alberta Government's Mass Layoffs of Health Care Workers: The Need to Raise the Demand to Stop Paying the Rich Becomes Increasingly Urgent


Website:   Email: