Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre was back to normal on Friday after an illegal wildcat strike by some AUPE staff at the facility on Thursday afternoon.
Wildcat strikes by General Support Services with Alberta Union of Provincial Employees’ members began early Thursday, when staff at Edmonton’s Royal Alexandra Hospital hit the picket line. The movement swept to about 20 hospitals and health centres around the province.
On Friday, Gjenna Saretsky, spokesperson for Alberta Health Services, said all elective surgery went ahead as planned at Red Deer hospital on Thursday. Surgery for Friday was proactively postponed in anticipation of further strike action, but ended up being performed on Friday, except for one that needed to be rescheduled.
Between 600 and 800 workers took part in the job action across Alberta and they were back to work around 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
General Support Services — the lowest paid workers in the health-care system — include staff who manage health records, prepare meals, maintain and clean facilities, assist in therapy, sterilize surgical tools, assist pharmacists and provide security.
About 200 people, including workers belonging to other health-care unions, came out to what started as an information picket in Red Deer at 11:30 a.m. at the hospital.
Brenda Corney, chairperson of Friends of Medicare, Red Deer Chapter, who attended the Red Deer picket, said it was a hard decision for the workers to declare a wildcat strike.
“It’s not anyone’s first choice. You get pretty desperate before you start to do things like that,” Corney said.
Red Deer hospital has about 800 General Support Services members.
“These people waited for over a year for a contract. I think the wildcat strike was an expression of the frustration — what do we need to do to get this done.”
In January, the workers’ bargaining unit rejected a mediator’s contract recommendations by 95 per cent. AUPE walked away from mediated negotiations last week after AHS tabled an offer that was lower than the mediator’s report.
AHS offered a two per cent lump sum payment for 2011, a two per cent increase for 2012 and a cost of living increase for 2013.
Late Thursday afternoon, AHS agreed to binding arbitration with the AUPE and the 22,000 General Support Services workers.