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Front-line health care workers on strike across the province

The strike is due to cut of 11,000 health care jobs in the province, according to AUPE

Monday morning front-line hospital staff walked off the job across the province.

Front-line staff say they are striking to defend their jobs and the public health care system.

The strikes began Monday morning at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, Alta., followed by groups across the province, including Rimbey, Wetaskiwin and Leduc joining in. Alberta Health Services also confirmed a walkout at the University of Alberta Hospital at noon on Mon., Oct. 26.

Guy Smith, president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), says tensions having been building for months among AUPE members.

“The recent announcement by Health Minister Tyler Shandro of 11,000 jobs being cut in the middle of a global deadly pandemic was the last straw for them,” Smith said in a press release.

“Nursing-care and support workers decided today that there was no other option but to fight to protect Albertans at risk, especially during the deadliest pandemic in a century. By constantly short-staffing public health care, this government is pushing our members to the breaking point exactly when Albertans need them most.”

Shandro announced that 9,700 jobs will be lost through outsourcing support services and AHS was asked to eliminate 100 management positions. Outsourcing support services would include laundry, community lab, and food services. Shandro says these changes will save the government upwards of $600 million annually when completed.

The strike by AUPE members was a decision made by the members themselves, Smith says, adding AUPE respects the wishes of its members.

“Across this province, working people are rising up against Jason Kenney’s job-killing policies and are joining the fight in solidarity,” said Smith.

Alberta Teachers’ Association president Jason Schilling says he supports the striking health care professionals across the province.

“This spontaneous labour action is a direct response to government decisions to cut, gut and privatize public health care. Alberta’s teachers stand in solidarity with public sector workers across the province in defence of quality public services,” Schilling said in a press release.

“When workers decide that they have no choices left but to take this kind of job action, we need to listen to them and their concerns.”

Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) says they are also standing in solidarity with AUPE workers.

In a press release, Mike Parker, president of HSAA, says the cuts to heath care in the midst of a global pandemic by the Provincial Government were “heartless.”

“Health care workers have been working tirelessly to keep Albertan safe and they have been rewarded with threats to their jobs by a government that is hell-bent on ripping a part our public health care system. The blame for any disruption to patient care that may occur today needs to land squarely at the feet of Jason Kenney and the UCP,” Parker said.

President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance Travis Toews says the strike has put the wellbeing of Albertans at risk.

“Alberta Health Services is taking immediate action with the Alberta Labour Relations Board to end this illegal activity. Those involved in this illegal action will be held accountable,” Toews said in a statement.

“My expectation is that all unions respect the bargaining process, stop putting Albertans’ safety at risk and abide by the law.”

AUPE says its members will continue to be committed to ensuring patients safety during any dispute.

Smith says public safety is why front-line staff have taken this type of action.

“Members will do everything in their power to keep Albertans safe… They know that slashing thousands of front-line jobs during a pandemic is mad. It will lead to lower levels of care and higher costs. It will lead to tragedies,” said Smith.

AUPE says that registered nurses were not involved in the walk-out, however, unit clerks, housekeeping, food services, laundry staff, licensed practical nurses, health-care aids and maintenance workers were involved.

-With files from Shaela Dansereau, Black Press Media

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