Picketing Red Deer hospital workers were back on the job Tuesday after the Alberta Labour Relations Board ordered them to go to work.
Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre was one of 45 health-care sites where Alberta Union of Provincial Employees members walked off the job on Monday in protest of the province’s plan to cut up to 11,000 jobs at Alberta Health Services.
Some of the cuts will come by further contracting out jobs.
In a decision issued Monday, the board ruled the workers’ refusal to work amounted to an illegal strike under the province’s Labour Relations Code.
Finance Minister Travis Toews said he was pleased with the ruling.
“Albertans should be able to rely on their health-care system with services delivered uninterrupted – no matter the circumstance,” Toews said in a statement.
“Going forward, we expect that all unions respect the bargaining process and stop putting Albertans’ safety at risk. We will not tolerate illegal strike activity.”
About 500 AUPE members work at the Red Deer hospital and about 50 were on the picket line Monday morning. Members walked the line near the hospital’s main entrance until about 5 p.m., when the labour board met.
AUPE vice-president Bonnie Gostola said workers had every intention of being back on the line Tuesday, but the union advised them to return to work.
Legislation enacted by the UCP government now financially penalizes workers, instead of unions, if they don’t, she said.
Gostola said union members will regroup.
“We are not going away. This government got a very strong message, especially when we had 45 sites that went out across Alberta. That’s going to build,” Gostola said.
“Our members aren’t done. They are very, very motivated to stand up for their jobs. They are very motivated to stand up for Albertans. They are going to stand up and continue to stand up.”
The AUPE represents about 58,000 health-care workers. At Red Deer hospital, they include laundry, housekeeping and food services staff, as well as administration clerks, licensed practical nurses and health-care aides.
— With files from The Canadian Press