Nearly 800 health-care workers who walked off the job last October in a one-day wildcat strike have been disciplined by Alberta Health Services, the union that represents the workers said Tuesday.
The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees said it has filed grievances related to 771 letters of warning and 27 suspensions from work — all of which were between one to five days long.
“AHS has created as many grievances from one day of protest as they would normally face in two years from AUPE,” Bonnie Gostola, the vice-president of the AUPE, said.
The strike on Oct. 26, 2020, saw thousands of health-care workers walk off the job all around Alberta in protest of staffing cuts that had been announced by the province.
On Tuesday, NDP leader Rachel Notley called for the reversal of those cuts ahead of Thursday’s budget.
“Jason Kenney must drop his plan for mass layoffs,” she said. “I challenge him to put these plans back on the shelf for Budget 2021, and instead if he’s so focused on slashing our health-care and privatizing long-term care even further, well then he should include that in his election platform for 2023.
“He owes it to Albertans to let them vote on these kinds of silly plans, including the plan to fire 11,000 health-care workers.”
The workers who participated in the strike included unit clerks, housekeeping, food services and laundry services staff, as well as licensed practical nurses, health-care aids and maintenance workers. Registered nurses were not involved, according to the AUPE.
The strike was found to be illegal by the labour board the same day it happened and employees were ordered back to work.
According to AHS, ahead of the strike it warned employees that there would be consequences.
“AHS had communicated to staff and AUPE that it would be pursuing action on any illegal activity and staff would not be granted amnesty,” a statement Tuesday said.
AHS added that it has determined that there were staff across “all zones” who participated in the province-wide strike.
“Disciplinary actions were issued as appropriate based on role and impact to patient care,” it said.
Notley also questioned why AHS is disciplining health-care workers instead of focusing on those who break COVID-19 rules.
“It is an incredible level of hypocrisy,” she said. “We can rain discipline down on front-line health-care workers who react to being told they were about to be fired after being on the front line for months in the middle of a pandemic.
“But Jason Kenney cannot discipline … those small groups of Albertans who are literally putting their neighbours and their communities at risk. ”
As part of the reprimands, AHS also reported eight licensed practical nurses to the College of Licensed Professional Nurses of Alberta.
AHS said the nearly 800 grievances will be addressed with help from the Alberta Relations Labour Board due to the “unprecedented volume and similarity.”
The costs will be covered by “existing internal resources” within AHS, it said.
The AUPE represents more than 90,000 workers, including about 58,000 in health care.
–with files from Caley Ramsay, Global News