February 25, 2020
Opposition and Mass Actions Against the
Force Government to Back Down from Attacks on Health Care
against overnight closings of hospital emergency rooms, Sackville, New
February 16, 2020 (B. Wark)
• People's Actions Force New Brunswick
Premier to Retreat
• United Nurses of
Alberta Holds Actions Across Alberta - Peggy Askin
• Legalized Theft of
Pension Funds Must Not Stand! - Peggy Morton
• Coming Event: March for
Broad Opposition and Mass
Actions Against the
New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs announced on
February 16, the suspension of a series of anti-social measures due to
be implemented March 11. The most brutal and life-threatening measure
was the permanent overnight closures of the emergency departments of
six community hospitals, in Caraquet, Grand Falls, Perth-Andover,
Sackville, Sainte-Anne-de-Kent, and Sussex. Residents of these
communities needing emergency services from midnight to 8 o'clock in
the morning would have to travel 45 minutes or more depending on the
weather to bigger centres for services. In addition, 120 acute care
beds in these hospitals would be transformed into long term care
learning of these anti-social attacks
on their health care, the people of New Brunswick sprung into action.
They united as one declaring a definitive No! to the
their community hospitals and wrecking of emergency services. The
mayors of the targeted communities, doctors, nurses, paramedics, and
lives have been saved because of immediate access to emergency
spoke out loudly against this attack on the future of their
communities. Instead of wrecking, they demand increased funding for
health care services and improvement of the wages and working
conditions of the public sector workers so as to guarantee recruitment
retention of health care workers.
Both the PCs currently in power and the Liberals
them have long declared that the mandate of the government of New
Brunswick is to limit the wage increases of health care workers and
public sector workers to below the cost of living. They currently are
waging a war against nursing home workers to deprive them of any legal
fight for improvement of their wages and working conditions,
including strike action if necessary.
Working conditions throughout New Brunswick's
sector are deteriorating while governments pose the problem as a
shortage of health care workers, not the conditions in which they work
and deliver the services. Governments advocate an anti-social
pay-the-rich economy as the only way to run the province at the expense
of the rights
and well-being of the people.
Paramedics exposed the fiction of the government
closing emergency departments overnight would be of little consequence
to patients because they would just go to the emergency rooms in bigger
centres. They wrote:
"Government's decision to close 6 emergency
across the province will unnecessarily increase travel time to larger
centres. This decision directly affects public safety in the event of
an emergency. The major centres are already overcrowded. Having
paramedics stuck in hospital hallways with patients waiting for
hospital staff is
already severely reducing ambulance availabilities for 911 calls. The
public will now be forced to commute, in some areas over an hour, to a
facility for care. With these longer commutes, the potential for
incidents will increase and will further deplete this province's
valuable resources and put public safety at greater risk. Every
department and clinic plays a vital role in this province, even more so
in rural New Brunswick. As the saying goes, this change will be nothing
more than 'robbing Peter to pay Paul' and as history has shown,
it never works.
"The solution for New Brunswick health care should
be the elimination of services! If we truly want to reform health care
in New Brunswick, we need to look beyond shutting down emergency
services like emergency departments. We need to invest in our people
and focus on compensating and recruiting people for the exceptional
service they provide everyday while still dealing with the
repercussions of past government's decisions."
Congratulations to the people of New Brunswick who
shown in practice that they are committed to stepping up their fight
against the anti-social offensive in the province. The people demand
increased investments in social programs and to stop paying the rich!
Protest against planned Emergency Room closings, Stella-Maris-de-Kent
February 17, 2020.
During his press conference on February 16,
the suspension of his recent anti-social measures to further wreck
health care, Premier Higgs blamed a lack of proper communication for
the massive opposition that erupted among people of all walks of life.
In other words he has not abandoned the wrecking of health care, but
engage in anti-social propaganda in an attempt to destroy public
opinion for increased investments in social programs and to stop paying
The Premier announced he will visit the
communities targeted for closure of their emergency departments in
April and May. He
committed to a provincial health-care summit in June that will have, in
his words, the "goal of developing a strategy to ensure a sustainable
and reliable public health care system for the future." The findings
consultations and the summit will be released this fall.
The Premier warned the people that the same
anti-social arguments, which led to the proposed wrecking measures,
would guide the consultations and the summit. Higgs said, "An aging
demographic coupled with a growing labour force shortage is hampering
our ability to provide the right care, in the right place, at the right
we need people in this province to be part of the solution and that
must start with hearing from the people most impacted."
People Are Having Nothing of the Pathetic
Arguments of the Premier
Immediately following the Premier's announcement
of an anti-social
propaganda tour and summit, people in the six targeted communities
organized mass demonstrations to demand an end to the anti-social
restructuring of health care, not its
postponement. People wore signs reading "Health Care Cuts Kill!" and
chanted "rural lives matter." They spoke of the need for a new
direction for their rural communities where the poverty level is high,
wages and working conditions are deteriorating and local populations
are indeed aging as young people leave in search of a better life. The
communities need comprehensive health care services, including 24/7
emergency care and seniors' care. Improvements must not take away from
acute hospital care, as the premier proposed, but be seen as
increased investments in social programs and public services to
guarantee the rights and well-being of the people.
The people expressed pride and relief that their
organized actions led to the suspension of the closures of their
emergency services and vowed to continue speaking out for a pro-social
humane solution to the crisis in health care.
Calgary, February 13, 2020
From the Peace Country in the north to Bow Island
the south, United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) organized more than 33
information walks in 25 communities at health care work sites and MLAs'
offices across the province on February 13. Nurses were joined by their
co-workers from the Alberta Union of Public Employees (AUPE), the
Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) and Canadian Union of
Public Employees (CUPE). Active and retired workers from many sectors
joined the nurses and other health care workers, including railway
workers, steelworkers, and school board workers. Together they
delivered a strong message, "Forward Together," No! to rollbacks,
wages freezes and cuts, and No!
to privatization. The workers made it
clear that they are united in fighting against the Kenney agenda of
wrecking health care and handing over even more of the health system to
control by private interests.
February 13 was
the 32nd anniversary of the end of the
19-day strike of Alberta nurses in 1988, in which nurses resisted
demands for huge rollbacks and concessions from the Alberta government,
defied every injunction and back to work order, and returned to work
with their contract intact. The anniversary was marked with information
and events in Bonnyville, Bow Island, Calgary, Camrose, Drayton Valley,
Edmonton, Edson, Fairview, Fort McMurray, High River, Hinton, Jasper,
Lac La Biche, Leduc, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Olds, Oyen, Peace River,
Red Deer, St. Albert, Spirit River, Stony Plain, Vegreville, and
Speaking at the picket at the Foothills Medical
in Calgary, UNA Secretary-Treasurer Karen Craik said they were there to
let the Alberta government know that "Health care workers like nurses
are the heart of Alberta's health care system...and that the cuts to
health care will hurt safe patient care in Alberta." "Don't let the
take the heart out of health care," she said.
Collective agreements for health care and
services workers expire March 31 and nurses and other health care
workers and provincial government
workers are facing outrageous demands from the government to cut wages
and premiums and deteriorate working conditions at a time when the
conditions are unsustainable.
At the end of the four-year contract, the workers would have received
wage increases for seven years, a cut in real wages of at least 15
per cent based on the average rates of inflation.
Nurses have been threatened with the loss of an
"estimated" 500 full-time equivalent registered nursing jobs over the
next three years,
affecting about 750 nurses. AUPE members are threatened with
out of up to 3,000 jobs in hospital laundries, food services and
environmental services. HSAA has been told the government is looking
monopolies to take over public medical lab services.
But the government's plan to hold "negotiations"
loaded guns pointed at the workers is not succeeding. All the
negotiating committees for government services and health care have
given a resounding No!
to the vicious attacks on the wages, benefits
and working conditions contained in the proposals tabled by the
and Alberta Health Services. They have answered with one voice that
they will stand together in defence of the right to health care and the
rights of the staff who deliver care and services. This blatant attempt
to steal from the workers even more of the added value they create, and
to degrade services in order to fill the coffers of the global health
care monopolies and other parasites must not stand!
The Alberta Federation of Labour has released a
"Don't You Dare!" demanding that the Kenney government reverse
the changes to public sector pensions made in Bill 22, the Reform
of Agencies, Boards and Commissions and Government Enterprises Act
that established government control of public sector pensions
through executive or police powers. More than 350,000 active and
retired workers are affected by the changes. The report can be found here.
22 put the Alberta Teachers Retirement Fund under
control of the Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo). All
public sector pension boards have been deprived of their ability to
select a pension administrator, and will all be managed by AIMCo, which
means that pension boards have no say on how the pension funds are
managed. Cabinet can veto any appointments made by unions and public
sector employers to the pension boards. As for direct control over
AIMCo decisions, the legislation under which AIMCo operates requires it
to comply with directives from the Minister. Through these changes the
Kenney government has seized control of $115 billion in
pension funds which belong to workers employed by the Alberta
government, Alberta Health Services, school boards, municipalities,
post-secondary colleges and universities, and other public sector
The AFL report explains that Bill 22 made drastic
changes to pension member protections, in particular for the rights of
part-time, non-unionized employees to participate in the pension plans.
Of great concern is that Bill 22 removed successor rights provisions
which allowed pension plan members to stay in the plans if their work
contracted out or privatized. The Kenney government has announced it is
looking at privatizing public medical labs, contracting out hospital
environmental, food and laundry services, moving surgical procedures to
private clinics, and who knows what else. Under Bill 22, the workers
could be deprived of their pensions and right to security in
Together, these changes amount to legalized theft
pensions of public sector workers through the use of executive police
powers. Not only can the Kenney government use these provisions to
deprive workers of pensions, but it allows wholesale government dictate
over investments decisions.
The report outlines signs that the UCP government
considering using Albertans' pension money to invest in oil and gas
projects that are having trouble finding private investors, and that
workers are saying to Jason Kenney, "Don't you dare use our pension
funds to further your political agenda!"
Barely a month after Bill 22 received Royal
AIMCo and the private equity corporation KKR, said to be one of the
largest U.S. buyout companies, announced they had acquired a 65 per
cent stake in the Coastal GasLink natural-gas pipeline from TC Energy
Corp. Alberta public sector workers' pension funds are being used for a
pipeline crossing unceded Wet'suet'en territory without the consent of
the hereditary chiefs who are the Indigenous title holders. This is
government does not recognize that workers
have any rights as human beings or because of their contribution to the
economy. He is engaging in legalized theft of what belongs to the
workers by right in order to dictate which private interests have
access to the pension funds. Many are expressing concern that this will
increasingly risky ventures and bailouts being propped up with public
sector pension funds, putting the security of workers in retirement at
risk. It goes without saying that such decisions will be made without
regard for the need to address climate change, take care of Mother
Earth, and uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples.
These actions show criminal disregard for the
the socialized economy and for the natural environment. They continue
to tie the Alberta economy to the U.S. war machine and economy and an
unsustainable dependence on oil and gas extraction. A new direction for
the economy is needed. Pension funds come from the social wealth
that workers produce but do not control. It is this lack of control by
the workers, who are the producers, over what is produced and how it is
produced that is at the heart of the problem. The social wealth
produced by workers must be reinvested in a socially responsible manner
to build a diverse economy that has an internal self-reliant strength
trades with others for mutual benefit and development. Such an economy
must have the aim to guarantee the rights and well-being of all, and
humanize the social and natural environment.
In a modern Canada pensions are a right that
workers by virtue of their contributions to the economy, and all people
have a right to pensions which provide security in retirement by virtue
of being human. Governments have a social responsibility to guarantee
pensions and security in retirement. To defend the pensions we have
is to defend the rights of all!
Repeal Bill 22!
Who Decides? We Decide!
Defend the Pensions We Have --
Fight for Pensions for All!
The callout for the March for What Matters, taking
across Alberta February 27-29 states in part, "This is an opportunity
for individuals across all
public sector professions to unite together against the Premier's
relentless and ruthless sweeping cuts to what Albertans need most. Take
a stand against the privatization of Alberta's public services.
"Since this government took office unemployment
increased while the quality of public services in our province has
decreased, and a number of our public services have made steady moves
towards privatization or being eliminated entirely.
"Please join us as we march from the Edmonton
Center to the front of the Legislature Building and make our voices
heard. After our work day finishes, let's stand alongside fellow
Albertans to stand up for what is right: EQUITABLE access to QUALITY
Wear Red, Share Your Voice!
Thursday, February 27
March from Edmonton Convention Centre
to the Alberta Legislature
Rally at the Legislature
Alberta-wide Protest - Wear Red, Share Your Voice
Focus on Education
Canada High School - 641 17 Ave SW
Focus on Healthcare
Chumir Urgent Care, 1213 4 St SW
Rally at City Hall
booths at City Hall from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 pm
4919 - 48th Avenue
11:30 am - 2:00 pm
Slave Lake, Ponoka, and other
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