Healthcare workers across the Lakeland have walked out of hospitals in a wildcat strike against budget cuts and talks of privatizing areas of care from the provincial UCP government, with the message that they’re fighting for their jobs.
Some staff in Cold Lake stationed a picket line outside of the city hospital on Monday morning, where passing motorists have shown support for their cause.
“At some point you have to take a stand,” said Michelle Taylor, a laundry worker for Cold Lake Hospital. “The cuts that are going to happen, they’ll affect our community, facility, and families.
“This wasn’t an easy choice to make, because we think of our community and homes. We’ve tried to ensure there’s enough staff on hand to ensure the hospital stays operational.”
Taylor is joined with her fellow laundry workers and other co-workers, which include nurses, dietary nurses, service workers, and MDR workers.
A “wildcat” strike is defined as a strike that’s organized by on-the-ground workers rather than by union leaders.
In a statement on Twitter, AHS has called the strikes “illegal” and have reached out to staff with the request that they return to work.
“I think it’s unfortunate the union leader’s revved the workers up to this point,” said MLA for Bonnyville, Cold Lake, and St. Paul David Hanson.
“I’ve gotten calls from people in Bonnyville that have had their surgery has been cancelled today — that’s just a little bit irresponsible to me, and I wish folks would just get back to work, and that their leadership would come and talk to the government to negotiate in good faith.”
Though similar reports of walkouts have been reported in St. Paul, Taylor said that there was no coordination between the different healthcare workers and the walkouts each community is experiencing is a result of budget cuts.
Taylor went on to express her doubt that privatized healthcare would be able to provide the same quality of care that has been provided by workers thus far.
“Patient care is number one — you won’t get the same compassion and caring quality work that you would in a contracted scenario.”
Last week, it was reported at the United Conservative Party’s annual general meeting, that 53 per cent were in favour of a two-tier health care system, with some elements of privatization.
Earlier this month, the government announced that up to 11,000 AHS jobs were being cut, primarily those in laboratory, linen, cleaning and in-patient food services.
“Healthcare should be based on what’s in the best interest of the patient, not on ideology or special interest groups,” Kenney said on a Calgary radio station.
The move has received criticism from the UCP’s political opponents, as well as from high ranking party members.
“I understand that the healthcare system needs significant reforms,” said Nate Glubish, Minister of Service Alberta in a press release. “If we approve this policy, it is going to cause a ton of grief for all MLAs who are working hard to deliver you results.”
Taylor and her co-workers in Cold Lake are prepared to continue their strike until word comes down that the UCP’s decision has been reversed.
“I hope that things go well, because this is our community, this is our hospital, and we want to make sure it stays taken care of.”
Currently, every AHS site remains open to the public.
More to follow.