Red Deer seniors home served with strike notices

A Red Deer seniors care facility that has 152 units is set to be hit by a strike/lockout on Friday.

A Red Deer seniors care facility that has 152 units is set to be hit by a strike/lockout on Friday.

A total of 130 workers at Symphony Senior Living Aspen Ridge have served strike notice that goes into effect at 1 p.m. on Friday, the same time the company has said a lockout notice will go into effect.

The company says service to seniors will not be compromised as replacement workers will be employed.

Alberta Health says it will monitor the situation. Alberta Health provides funding for 44 supportive living beds at the facility, including some beds for dementia patients.

Symphony Aspen Ridge is a privately owned and operated seniors care facility located at 3100 22nd St.

Both sides say they are interested in returning to negotiations to avoid the strike and lockout.

AUPE president Guy Smith said the company is putting profit before the needs of its clients. AUPE represents the workers.

On Tuesday, close to 130 licensed practical nurses, health care aides and other specialized staff served strike notice at Symphony Senior Living Aspen Ridge.

Contract talks failed after more than a year of mediation. Caregivers first voted in favour of strike action on Jan. 2.

Symphony responded by serving Alberta Union of Provincial Employees with a lockout notice.

Bargaining began in September 2011. Mediation began a year later and ended in November 2012.

Smith said Symphony, based in Ontario, stated at the bargaining table that it needs a 30 to 40 per cent profit margin.

It’s unfortunate when profit is the deciding factor in providing seniors care, and care to vulnerable people, he said.

Smith said instead of taxpayers’ dollars going to staff wages, the money is going towards profit. Depending on the classification of worker, the average wage at Symphony is 20 to 25 per cent below the industry standard, he said.

“That really is the crux of the problem here. AHS funds these companies but doesn’t have any strings attached to ensure the funding goes for what it’s intended for. It’s left up to the company as to how they actually use those funds,” Smith said.

Lisa Brush, Symphony Senior Living CEO, said her company has never demanded a profit level of 30 to 40 per cent.

“We don’t make anything close to that and that is not the reason we’re not able to provide the level of increase that (AUPE) are requesting,” Brush said.

The problem is that the AUPE is demanding a 35 per cent wage increase over four years for health care aids, she said.

“They are trying to get to a wage parity for that category that is reflected in hospitals, nursing homes and fully-funded operations. We are none of those,” Brush said.

Kim Van Dam, Symphony vice-president of operations, said the company is fully prepared in the event of job action.

“There will be no disruption of service. Our residents’ safety and quality of services of care will not be compromised,” Van Dam said.

Replacement staff working with all residents will be qualified, she said.

AUPE said it will offer life and limb support to residents in the case of emergencies during the work action.

In a written statement, Alberta health Services said it is working with Symphony Senior Living to ensure that patient care will not be affected during a labour dispute.

AHS will implement enhanced quality assurance processes to monitor quality and resident safety standards and to ensure the ongoing viability of the provider’s contingency plans. Daily AHS oversight will include teleconferences and meetings with the site administration to review concerns, occupancy and labour action status. An AHS care manager will also visit the site on a daily basis.

Symphony also owns and operates Symphony Senior Living Inglewood in Red Deer but that facility is not affected by the dispute.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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