September 8, 2021
Government's latest proposal continues to let down front-line workers and patients
While the government’s latest proposal in the ongoing negotiations with the United Nurses of Alberta rescinds their previous plans to cut wages by three percent, they continue to undermine nurses’ value by rolling back compensation through other areas of their collective agreement, in what would amount to an immediate pay cut of two percent for Alberta's nurses.
Nurses have worked diligently and selflessly over the past year and a half to keep us safe, yet have seen no appreciation from this government. “They've endured 21 months and counting of going to work under extremely difficult circumstances, running towards a fire to ensure that we are all safe,” says Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare. “Given this government’s actions, we should count ourselves fortunate that we still have nurses who are willing to put it all on the line for their communities.”
Meanwhile, the government has shown they have no concerns with paying contracted agencies who will undoubtedly take a cut for doing the work that AHS should be doing to recruit and retain staff. Albertans have noticed the job postings offering temporary contracts with pay far exceeding what they have offered Alberta nurses in negotiations, in addition to bonus pay, overtime pay, relocation, accommodation, company car, and discounted and/or free food.
Nursing has long been plagued by short staffing, jeopardizing worker and patient safety, and COVID-19 has since exacerbated long standing problems. Alberta is long overdue for a long-term staffing strategy, but instead the government is pursuing short-sighted, expensive ploys—all while trying to convince us we can't afford to pay our nurses what they deserve.
Moreover, the government continues to obscure the reality of their proposals, with Finance Minister Travis Toews saying today that the contract proposal contains a three year "wage freeze," ultimately confuscating the actual impact it will have on nurses and their families.
If governments had actually listened to front-line workers who have, for years, advocated for appropriate levels of staffing; and if they had actually shown respect and recognized the value that front-line workers bring to our health care system, we would not be in this situation today. But once again, Albertans are faced with having to deal with the stark reality of understaffing, impacting not only health care workers, but the health and safety of all those patients who rely on their care.
“Our human resources are not finite,” says Azocar. “In order to have a well-staffed and well-resourced public health care system—one that is robust and adaptable enough to be there for us when we need it—we must be willing to recognize the vital importance and value of our front-line workers, and ensure they are respected as such.”
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