May 16, 2014 8:53 pm

Lockout of striking home care workers declared illegal by labour board

Watch above: Tension is building after some healthcare aides say they abandoned their picket line to go back to work, yet their employer turned them away. Kendra Slugoski reports.

EDMONTON – The Alberta Labour Relations Board has ruled in favour of a group of striking care workers who were prevented from returning to work Friday, saying they were illegally locked out.

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The workers walked off the job May 7 at Supports for Artspace Independent Living, or SAIL, a non-profit co-operative housing apartment at 9330 – 101A Ave. Negotiations had broken down between their union, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, and SAIL.

The workers chose to return to their jobs Friday because they said they were worried their clients weren’t being properly cared for by replacement workers.

But when the striking workers arrived Friday morning, they were barred from entering.

“There has been no lockout served, so this is, in our opinion, an illegal lockout,” said Mike Dempsey of AUPE .

The union says SAIL employees are paid 20 per cent less than the industry standard and have no benefits.

SAIL President Roxanne Ulanicki said it isn’t fair to compare long-term care and assisted-living facilities with SAIL, where some residents with physical disabilities pool their resources to hire home care for help with dressing and eating.

“When you’re in a hospital, you’re sick,” Ulanicki said. “Nobody is sick here; we just need help with the daily activities of our lives.

“We’re a non-profit organization and so there are only so many dollars available, and we came up with what we felt was the best offer possible which included some pay on benefits and it was outright rejected. It’s been very hard to negotiate.”

Ulanicki said the workers will be welcomed back, but not until May 22, when the replacement workers are done their contracts.

The matter went before the Alberta Labour Board Friday and the board ruled the lockout was illegal.

“This is a complete victory for the employees and the union,” said AUPE negotiator Kevin Davediuk.

Davediuk says the AUPE will now work to get a process in place so the employees can return to work for the rest of the weekend.

“I am sure our members will be ecstatic to learn that they can spend this long weekend back at work with the residents that many of them have provided care to for years.”

The SAIL board has since served the AUPE with a proper 72-hour lockout notice. The notice means the employees will be legally prohibited from providing care to the residents as of 5:15 p.m., May 19.

According to the AUPE, the board’s decision will be filed with the courts after the long weekend.

Davediuk says if negotiations don’t progress this weekend, instead of being on strike, employees will be fully locked out and on the picket line come Monday.

With files from Kendra Slugoski, Brett Barrett, Global News. 

© Shaw Media, 2014

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