Health Care Unions Condemn Privatization and Mass Layoffs
Unions representing health care workers in Alberta strongly
condemned the United Conservative Party's (UCP) announcement that it
would proceed with privatization of medical labs, laundry, housekeeping
and food services in health care facilities and continue to reduce the
number of nurses in Alberta hospitals.
Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE)
a media conference immediately following Shandro's press conference,
AUPE President Guy Smith said AUPE members will take whatever action is
necessary to stop the cuts which include 9,700 jobs of AUPE members
providing laundry, housekeeping and food
"Today [Tuesday, October 13], Health Minister Shandro confirmed his
duplicitous plans to cut more jobs after promising to create more. The
UCP is downgrading Alberta's public health care system by forcing
already over-worked staff to do more with less. The job cuts for
nursing care staff and doctors, and the mass privatization ploy, are
all recommendations from the government's $2-million Ernst & Young
report, which it commissioned back in 2019 to help them find ways to
cut corners in AHS [Alberta Health Services].
that we know exactly what the damage is, we can keep prepping ourselves
for the biggest fight of our lives," says Smith. "Our AHS members are
already fighting for strong contract language to stop the sell-off of
housekeeping, food services and laundry jobs. We plan on winning this
protection, but if we do not, strike action is on the
While the Jason Kenney government promised to create jobs in
Alberta, Smith says it's actually "a job-destroying government. This
brutal attack on jobs is going to hurt working Albertans and small
communities across the province. This government kicks Albertans when
they're down, exploiting a pandemic that they're failing to manage by
killing jobs and endangering health care at the exact moment we need it
Smith adds: "It's disingenuous for the Minister to say privatization
won't result in 'net reductions' and only a 'change of employer,'
because we know the first thing private and for-profit companies do
when they snatch up our jobs is cut wages, pensions and benefits for
hardworking staff. And everyday Albertans are the ones who pay the
-- the patients, seniors and people with disabilities who are at the
receiving end of a downgraded service."
Private companies will often resort to layoffs early in their
contracts with government to boost their bottom line. Staff end up
working short, run off their feet by demanding bosses who go after our
first line of defence: union protections.
Rotting food, dirty linens, viral outbreaks, dangerous lab mix-ups:
all are cited as a result of privatization in general support services
across the globe. The media has also already confirmed Alberta patients
will be paying more out-of-pocket for items like crutches and casts.
"There are no 'savings' in this botched plan," says Smith. "All I
see are businesses profiting off the pain of patients and care-centre
AUPE's licensed practical nurses and health care aides will also be
impacted by Shandro's attack on the public care system, after he
confirmed over 800 clinical AHS jobs will be eliminated through
attrition, meaning even more short-staffed floors and longer wait times
in the near future, AUPE said.
"Is this really how the UCP are repaying frontline health care
workers after they risked their health and well-being to care for us
through this pandemic, when we need them most?" adds Smith. "This is
pathetic, and we're not going to let it happen."
Health Sciences Association of Alberta
"This government has decided to tear apart its best line of defence
against the ongoing pandemic. To be clear, this is about privatizing
health care. Money isn't being saved; it's being transferred to private
pockets instead of being used for patient care," Health Sciences
Association of Alberta (HSAA) President Mike Parker said.
"Privatization costs more and could very easily result in poorer health
outcomes during this pandemic and the next one. Just days after again
praising the work done by our lab professionals, the current Health
Minister has targeted the very people he claims are protecting
Albertans in his misguided drive to privatize health care. Support
workers are clearly frontline workers. It takes a team to make health
care happen. Docs and other health care professionals cannot do their
work in dirty facilities or in unsanitary conditions.
"The Health Minister's announcement today is shameful. He has
abdicated all responsibility for the health and safety of Albertans. He
has instead decided his role is to fire highly-trained public health
professionals in order to facilitate the transfer of our public health
resources into private hands.
"These 'positions' represent thousands of Albertans who will be
added to the list of the unemployed. That's thousands upon thousands
who will no longer be contributing to our economy. And that's thousands
and thousands who will no longer be there to 'protect' Albertans."
United Nurses of Alberta (UNA)
The Alberta government is once against throwing health care in
Alberta into chaos, right in the middle of the largest health care
emergency in a century, UNA Labour Relations Director David Harrigan
said, calling the action dangerous and irresponsible.
"This morning's promise by Health Minister Tyler Shandro that
there will be no layoffs of frontline nurses when it lays off 11,000
health care employees contradicts statements by Alberta Health Services
in a letter received this morning [October 13]," said UNA Labour
Relations Director David Harrigan. The letter from AHS stated clearly
that it plans to proceed with its previously announced layoff of 500
nursing full-time equivalents, which UNA calculates will put 750 nurses
out of work.
Shandro was careful to say that there would be no layoffs during the pandemic, Harrigan said.
is nothing to prevent this government from prematurely declaring the
pandemic to be over whenever it pleases, so this is a relatively
meaningless promise," Harrigan said. Moreover, he noted, Shandro
referred several times to eliminating
nursing positions through attrition, so nursing positions will continue
to be lost.
Last week, Harrigan added, AHS responded to UNA's request for
clarification about the Ernst & Young report by saying that AHS was
continuing to work with the Health Ministry on implementation of the
Ernst & Young report's recommendations for changes to AHS
operations and that no response from the government was
expected until later in the fall. "So it sounds like they came up with
a 79-page implementation plan over the long weekend," he said.
"Stability in the midst of a pandemic won't be achieved by short-staffed hospitals and burnt out health care workers," Harrigan
concluded, noting that positions are already silently disappearing in
the midst of the pandemic, and have been for months, leaving nurses
short staffed and overworked and patient safety compromised.
This article was published in
Number 70 - October 15, 2020
Health Care Unions Condemn Privatization and Mass Layoffs