CALGARY – Several unions, hospital workers and day-to-day residents are meeting to protest against privatization and what they call “dangerous cuts” in the provincial health system.
Several rallies organized by the Alberta Labor Federation are being held at locations across the province on Thursday, including three events in Calgary.
About 100 people gathered on Thursday morning in front of the Foothills Medical Center. Many protesters held their union flags in solidarity while drivers honked in support.
The protests are affiliated with five unions that launched a “Get up for Jason Kenney” campaign last week calling on Albert residents to take action.
Several groups are directly attacking the Alberta UCP government after Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced last month that more than 11,000 healthcare jobs would be cut by hiring laundry and laboratory services.
Rory Gill, president of the Alberta division of the Canadian Civil Servants Union, says the Kenney government does not listen to written letters and that is why his team took to the streets.
“Albertans works together, we come together, especially when we are in a crisis and this government does not seem to understand that,” said Gill.
“They don’t want to hear the Albertans and they don’t want to make things better, so we are fed up and tired of it. Stop making things worse, start sitting down with workers, discover things, strengthen public services and things are better, not worse. “
The provincial government says its recent decision to privatize services will save the province about $ 600 million a year. Shandro said that frontline nurses and clinical staff positions would not be lost during the pandemic, but some unions say their workers feel disrespected.
Bobby-Joe Borodey, of the Alberta Province Employees Union, says health workers were considered heroes in the beginning of the pandemic, but are now being undermined.
“They are the front line of defense to keep Albert’s inhabitants safe during this pandemic, but eight months later the message has changed and they are overpaid and can be replaced,” said Borodey.
“Nobody understands why this is happening in the middle of a pandemic and it is a shame that the government is using this as an opportunity to take advantage of members working in the health field.”
United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) is also sounding the alarm that workers are desperately needed and cuts are simply not an option.
Cameron Westhead, vice president of UNA, says nurses are being pushed to the limit.
We had few employees before the pandemic, so things are even worse now, “said Westhead.” We have hospitals full of COVID patients and the team is being forced to isolate themselves because they have been exposed and therefore nurses are working overtime.
“Morale has never been lower and nurses are feeling disrespected by this government.”
The demonstrations take place a week after hundreds of Alberta health workers quit their jobs. Since then, the Alberta Labor Relations Council has deemed this action illegal and has forced workers to return.
Two additional rallies are scheduled to take place in Calgary on Thursday, one at the Sheldon Chumir Center at 11 am and the other in front of the city hall at 4:30 pm
Events are also being held in Lethbridge, Red Deer and Edmonton.