Red Deer Respiratory therapist Holly Champney speaks at an NDP press coference about healt care worker wages on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of NDP)

Red Deer Respiratory therapist Holly Champney speaks at an NDP press coference about healt care worker wages on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of NDP)

Red Deer respiratory therapist speaks out against proposed pay cuts

Heath Sciences Association of Alberta says pay cuts as high as 11% proposed

The province’s proposal to roll back pay for some health-care workers is “demoralizing,” says a Red Deer respiratory therapist.

“After working through multiple pandemic waves and caring for the sickest of patients over the past two years, often to the point of physical and mental exhaustion, it feels demoralizing to be offered a wage roll back,” said Holly Champney in a news release from the Alberta NDP on Tuesday.

“The moral injury repeatedly caused by this government is real and I feel it. The health-care system will not go unharmed by the way the UCP has treated health-care workers.”

In a bargaining update to members, the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) reported that the UCP are seeking pay cuts to paramedics, lab technicians, occupational therapists, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, speech language therapists, respiratory therapists, social workers, and other positions.

Health Minister Jason Copping said on Monday the proposed pay cuts amount to first offers as negotiations continue with the HSAA. Negotiations restarted in October after Alberta Health Service and the union agreed to pause talks during the pandemic.

Copping said he remained confident the two sides would work out a deal as happened with the United Nurses of Alberta in January. The nurses received a 4.25 per cent wage increase over four years and other workplace improvements.

NDP health critic David Shepherd criticized the government for even considering health worker cuts when the finance minister approved raises of up to 39 per cent for money managers at the province’s investment company AIMCo.

Of the list of occupations facing a proposed wage rollback, NDP critic for status of women Janis Irwin points out that these roles are mainly filled by women.

“We know that women were disproportionately affected by job loss and wage decreases while we dealt with past waves of COVID-19. Yet, two budgets in and we don’t see a single line item, or mention, on how the UCP plan to help women recover,” said Irwin. “So to see this pointed attack on positions that are mostly filled by women is absolutely heartbreaking.”

Shepherd and NDP critic for mental health and addictions Lori Sigurdson, and NDP critic for finance Shannon Phillips penned a letter to the UCP finance minister urging to immediately fix the unfair situation.

The HSAA represents 25,000 paramedical technical, professional and general support employees in the health-care system.

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