Drumming up Support

Smokin’ Buffalo bring support to locked out AUPE workers at Points West Living

It’s day 31 of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) strike at Points West Living Cold Lake. Since December 16, 2016, close to forty PWL staff workers have been locked-out of their job. Over the past month, many people have shown their support for the workers through visits, food donations, and honking as they drive by.

On Wednesday, January 17, 2017, five members from Smokin’ Buffalo came out from Saskatchewan to perform a drum circle.  They showed their support and respect for the workers and the residents by sharing prayers and song for the community. They used 15 inch drums to perform Plains Cree style singing. After their songs, the crowd held hands and participated in a round dance.

Before the performance began, Vice President of AUPE Mike Dempsey explained they would like Points West Living to come back to the table to discuss under-staffing, training, and scheduling.  Many of the senior care workers wear large signs that reflect these concerns and their love for the seniors they work with in the community. And the staff are missed.

Garry Farrer, who has been a resident at PWL since 2013 is just one of the residents who stands outside in the cold in support of the staff. “If all the staff were hired back, everything would be back to normal. They are my second family. I trust them.”  Farrer adds, “Why doesn’t PWL use the money they are spending on hiring scabs and paying for their hotels and buses to hire extra staff.” Dempsey explains, “The replacement workers arrive at 6:30 a.m. and we get to message them for seven minutes. Then twelve hours later, the second shift arrives”.

Dempsey has heard complaints from family members of the residents and the residents themselves about how things are not being done properly. “The quality of care by replacement workers is sub-quality,” said Dempsey. He’s heard about disposable undergarments not being changed regularly and medications not being delivered properly. He said the replacement workers, who are hired from Braylu, are staying at a hotel and being bused in everyday for their shifts.

If people have a concern about the care being offered and received at Points West Living Cold Lake, they can speak to the staff on lock-out and they will provide them with information on who to contact and how to advocate. Dempsey stresses, “The government needs to know private for profit doesn’t work. Money is siphoned off for the shareholders.”