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Rally held at Alberta legislature against provincial cuts

Alberta government expected to cut 500 nursing jobs
WATCH ABOVE (Dec. 1, 2019): Alberta nurses staged a protest outside their provincial government's annual general meeting, as Premier Jason Kenney plans to cut hundreds of nursing jobs and consider policy that will impact thousands more healthcare workers. Sarah Ryan reports.

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.

READ MORE: Alberta Union of Provincial Employees bracing for up to 5,900 government job cuts

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.

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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.”

READ MORE: Edmontonians attend ‘Resistance Town Hall’ amid fears of major cuts to Alberta’s public sector workforce

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.

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About 75 people attended the demonstration.

Okotoks rally

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.

Alberta union members protest provincial job cuts
Alberta union members protest provincial job cuts

– With files from Global News’ Michael King