Alberta healthcare union warns government’s reforms could be disruptive

Guy Smith
Guy Smith Courtesy Sam Martin/CBC

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) has called on the government to stop dismantling the public healthcare system and tackle staffing shortages with more frontline support. 

“Over the past 30 years, I've seen these types of reforms, and without union and worker involvement, they are bound to fail,” said AUPE President Guy Smith in a Wednesday press release. 

“This is going to have a massive impact across sectors and will hurt an already fragile health care system being chipped away by the UCP’s (United Conservative Party’s) privatization scheme.” 

The Alberta government said on Wednesday it will reorient the healthcare system for Albertans to improve health outcomes for them and empower healthcare workers to deliver quality care. 

READ MORE: UPDATED: Alberta government to dismantle AHS, focus on more timely healthcare systems

“Albertans deserve access to the healthcare they need, when and where they need it,” said Alberta Premier Danielle Smith. 

“Healthcare workers move mountains for their patients every day.”

Despite repeated calls by AUPE for a collaborative approach and consultation, it said the Alberta government is going ahead with ramming through its overhaul of primary care, acute care, continuing care and mental health and addictions. 

It added workers are under extreme, ongoing stress and these changes add more disruption and uncertainty to a system that is suffering. 

Guy said the reforms do not address the staffing shortage crisis, “and it might even drive more workers away from the front lines and hinder attracting new workers.” He predicted the government will make the situation go from bad to worse. 

AUPE pressed Alberta Health Minister Adriana LaGrange to commit to keeping unions informed, involved and heard. Additionally, it said the Alberta government should implement wage increases, focus on greater job security and improve staffing levels to support frontline workers and ensure the delivery of quality care to Albertans. 

If LaGrange and the government are committed to hearing from workers and protecting jobs, he said they “can prove it by ensuring that these commitments are enshrined in collective agreements.”

More than 82,000 AUPE members, including 49,000 in healthcare, will be in collective bargaining in 2024 in what will be the largest round it has ever seen. 

“Our focus on bargaining is even more crucial to protect workers and service delivery from the disruption and negative impacts of these reforms,” said Guy.

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