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The Health Care Dominoes Have Started to Fall in Alberta

Canada   (140 Views 3 Comments)
by NotReady4PrimeTime NotReady4PrimeTime, RN (Moderator) Nurse

NotReady4PrimeTime has 25 years experience as a RN and works as a RN, CNCCP(C).

16 Articles; 71,200 Visitors; 7,351 Posts

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As mentioned in other threads, with the election of the United Conservative Party led by Jason Kenney, health care providers are in the government's crosshairs. The UCP is vociferously opposed to organized labour in general, organized public servants in particular. On Monday, May 13, the United Nurses of Alberta and Alberta Health Services bargaining committees were scheduled to meet with an arbitration board to discuss a wage reopener that was written into the UNA collective agreement during negotiations in 2017. UNA agreed to two years of frozen wages while the province battled a recession in exchange for a promise to revisit the issue for the final year of the three-year agreement; this formed the basis for the wage reopener clause. UNA's negotiations were the first completed of the three main health care-related unions in the province and set the tone for the subsequent bargaining of the other two unions. That's the background.

On Friday, May 10, Alberta Health Services' bargaining committee approached the chair of the arbitration board with a request to postpone the hearing until such time as the new UCP government had an opportunity to "consult with other public service unions and stakeholders" via a "blue-ribbon consultation panel" as to the direction the discussion should take. The chair of this "blue ribbon panel", Janice McKinnon, made her views clear in a paper she wrote two years ago, wherein she stated all public servants should immediately be rolled back 2%, followed by 2 years of wage freezes. The arbitration board's chair agreed to the postponement, despite a written deadline in the contract AHS signed with UNA that the hearing would be completed no later than June 30, 2019. It doesn't take a crystal ball to see where things are headed. 

The provincial government is in flagrant violation of provincial labour law and the chair of the arbitration board overstepped his authority in granting AHS' request. The Alberta Labour Relations Code specifically forbids an arbitrator from amending or changing the terms or conditions of the collective agreement, which is exactly what has happened. UNA immediately filed a request for an emergency review by the Alberta Labour Relations Board on the grounds that AHS has been bargaining in bad faith - AHS' bargaining team has idea what's going on and no authority to make ANY decisions in contract negotiations without the government's say-so - and breach of contract. UNA has also asked that the chair of the arbitration board be replaced. This review will take place on May 31; AHS has until May 24 to present their side of the issue. It will be interesting to see where this all goes, but I think I already know most of it. 

Although the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Alberta's prohibition of strike action by nurses, there has been no finalized essential services agreement put in place. Therefore, if UNA decided to strike or to work to rule, it would be deemed an illegal action and there would be HUGE fines levied. It may yet come to that.... UNA is one of the toughest unions in Canada and their history suggests they're not going to take this lying down.

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hellohobbit has 1 years experience.

1,085 Visitors; 59 Posts

does this mean it's getting even harder to find a job in Edmonton :(((

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NotReady4PrimeTime has 25 years experience as a RN and works as a RN, CNCCP(C).

16 Articles; 71,200 Visitors; 7,351 Posts

Yes, I'm afraid that's what it means. The UCP promised there would be no front-line jobs lost, but the only way to meet their goals is to leave vacancies vacant and then eventually delete the position. They'll reduce costs by attrition. They're required, by the terms of the collective agreement with UNA, to post vacancies, but they're absolutely not required to fill them. 

Their stated goal is to reduce overall cost of the health care system at the same time they're going to improve access and outcomes. And the only way to make that happen is to make Albertans pay for their care via a parallel private system. The Premier has stated he'll reduce administration costs, not hands-on care, but he fails to realize that Alberta's administration costs are already pared to the bone, the lowest in the country and only a little more than 3% of the overall budget. There are many ways costs can be controlled, but that would require consultation with the pointy end of the spear, not the spear-thrower. I can give him LOTS of ideas of where to minimize waste, only he's never going to ask me. (My facility provides high-acuity care for patients from all four western provinces, sometimes for many weeks or months; are those bills being paid by the patient's province? Or by Alberta?) But Mr Kenney is following Doug Ford's manifesto almost to the letter; whatever is happening in Ontario will soon be happening in Alberta. 

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