Members of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) walked off the job Monday Oct. 26, 2020 in protest of province-wide cuts put forth by Premier Jason Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro.
According to AUPE the hospital workers were on strike to “defend their jobs and the public health-care system that keeps Albertans safe and alive.”
The strikes began Monday morning at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, Alta., followed by groups across the province, including Wetaskiwin and Leduc joining in. Alberta Health Services also confirmed a walkout at the University of Alberta Hospital at noon on Monday Oct. 26, 2020.
Wetaskiwin Hospital staff picketed in front of the Wetaskiwin hospital along 47 Street, carrying signs sharing their concerns.
Staff declined to be quoted in order to protect their jobs with anonymity.
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.
AUPE President Guy Smith says that the final push for a strike came from AUPE member frustration at the recent announcement by Health Minister Tyler Shandro that 11,000 Alberta Health Services jobs would be cut.
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.
“By constantly short-staffing public health care, this government is pushing our members to the breaking point exactly when Albertans need them the most,” Smith said in an statement. Smith adds that on the morning of Oct. 26, 2020, the nursing 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.”
President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance Travis Toews said in a statement Oct. 26, that he is aware of the strikes and voiced the government’s concerns regarding patient health and the impact the walk out has on their wellbeing.
In his statement Toews said the wellbeing of patients in the province, “has been put at risk this morning.”
Toews also said, “Alberta Health Services is taking immediate action with the Labour Relations Board to end this illegal activity. Those involved in this illegal action will be held accountable.”
AUPE represents more than 90,000 workers, including approximately 58,000 in health care.