A group of Albertans concerned with cuts being made by the provincial government gathered on the steps of the legislature on Saturday.
The group included individuals who said they have been affected by different cuts created by the UCP.
“We’re gathered here on the steps of the legislature to all share stories about how Jason Kenney and his cruel austerity and the cuts to the budget are affecting people and their day-to-day lives,” organizer Stephen Buhler said.
In November, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees said the government plans to cut up to 5,900 positions as part of its plan to balance the province’s budget by the 2022-23 fiscal year. The union said the cuts would affect government and Alberta Health Services employees.
A letter from the government sent to the union said jobs are guaranteed until March 30, 2020, but the government will use all options available to meet its priorities starting on April 1.
The Public Service Commissioner’s Office letter said the cuts could include jobs and vacant positions.
“We’re here to fight back against the austerity and build solidarity and community amongst us,” Buhler said.
“Whether it’s AISH recipients or people whose jobs are being cut, we want to hear from everyone, because these struggles are all connected.”
The UCP government said it has been clear that spending restraint and innovation are necessary and it is being transparent with organized labour.
“Despite spending far more per capita on services than other larger provinces, our outcomes are no better and often worse,” Finance Minister Travis Toews said in a statement in November.
“This means that some difficult but necessary decisions are required to ensure available funding is directed to ensure available funding is directed to the front-line services Albertans need most.”
During Saturday’s rally, one man dressed in a Santa Claus costume collected lumps of coal from the crowd to deliver to the government.
About 75 people attended the demonstration.
About 100 union supporters also gathered in Okotoks on Sunday.
AUPE vice-president Karen Weiers said that while rallies help spread the word about the impact job cuts could have on frontline services, the unions are prepared to take more drastic action.
“We’re coming into a round of bargaining in 2020 and we are preparing our members to do whatever they need to do to protect their services,” Weiers said.
When asked if that could include taking job action, Weiers said that it would be up to the union members to decide.
– With files from Global News’ Michael King