Dozens of health workers who launched a one-day wildcat strike in Red Deer against government health cutbacks are now being reprimanded by their employer.
The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) put out a release this week stating it has filed nearly 800 grievances with Alberta Health Services over disciplinary measures taken against its members who picketed provincial cutbacks on Oct. 26.
The grievances relate to 771 letters of warning and 27 suspensions from work — ranging from one to five days — given out by AHS to hundreds of employees.
AUPE members who walked off the job to protest at health care sites across the province — including Central zone — are affected, although none lost their jobs for their participation in the strike.
About 50 union members protested in front of Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre against what was called a provincial assault on health care.
Picketing health workers at 45 sites across Alberta were ordered back to work after a day by the Alberta Labour Relations Board, which considered this an illegal strike under the province’s Labour Relations Code.
The AUPE did not quantify how many grievances are connected to disciplinary actions against Red Deer-area workers — but confirmed that many do involve central Alberta employees.
Some of the grievances are connected with Alberta Health Services reporting eight licensed practical nurses (LPNs) to their professional body: the College of Licensed Professional Nurses of Alberta (CLPNA). The union is representing them in dealings with the college.
“AHS has created as many grievances from one day of protest as they would normally face in two years from AUPE,” said Bonnie Gostola, vice-president of AUPE, which represents more than 90,000 workers, including 58,000 in health care.
An AUPE spokesperson said the union couldn’t comment further as these cases are now going through the grievance process.
During the Red Deer strike, workers were critical of the provincial government’s plan to lay off up to 11,000 health positions to save up to $600 million annually. This involved up to 500 AUPE members working at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre as laundry, housekeeping and food services staff, as well as administration clerks, licensed practical nurses and health-care aides.
Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro had stated that no front-line doctors or nurses would be lost, but critics felt that health care would be affected and that maintaining stability during a pandemic was crucial.