Alberta public sector union bracing for up to 5,900 government job cuts

United Nurses of Alberta president Heather Smith.				
			Postmedia File  Postmedia

United Nurses of Alberta president Heather Smith. Postmedia File Postmedia

"AHS will continue to consider all options available to meet our organizational needs including changes to staff mix, service design including changes and repurposing of sites, relocating services, reducing or ceasing the provision of services", Fitz said in the letter.

"This places increased demand on our healthcare services and it means we have to do things differently in order to provide safe, effective, and high-quality care for Albertans".

"The elimination of that many [Registered Nurse] and [Registered Practical Nurse] FTEs, equivalent to over a million fewer hours of care, will mean more than 750 front-line Registered Nurses will be laid off", UNA said in a news release. Alberta's nurses union says it feels betrayed after the province announced it is looking to end 500 fulltime nursing positions over the next three years.

According to the letter, AHS lead negotiator Raelene Fitz says AHS will be proceeding with an attrition-only approach until March 30, 2020.

The union met with Alberta Health Services Friday, where they were informed 500 full-time equivalent positions wouldn't be filled due to a downsizing plan.

The two sides are heading into collective bargaining next year, and the health agency says in the letter that it wanted to give nurses a heads up on finances and staffing.

"In light of the promises made by the government not to touch front-line health care workers, we will be asking for an immediate emergency meeting with Health Minister Tyler Shandro".

In a statement earlier Friday about the collective bargaining process, Finance Minister Travis Toews said the status quo "is not a sustainable option" and said Alberta spends more per capita on services than other large provinces, with often worse results. When reporters asked him about the potential nursing cuts, he said this is in line with the UCP government's agenda.

"We need to find a better way of delivering those services, and part of that is finding efficiencies".

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"Jason Kenney repeatedly claimed that he was going to protect front-line services", Notley said.

"He lied", Notley said in an interview from Calgary.

"This is the exact opposite of what Jason Kenney promised Albertans in the election in May. He has a mandate to preserve front-line services".

It is a one per cent increase from the previous budget and represents 43 per cent of total government operational spending.

The move comes as consulting firm Ernst & Young reviews AHS operations, which is expected to be completed sometime in December.

"This government spent $4.7 billion on a no-jobs corporate handout, and now Albertans have to pay for it with deep cuts to the healthcare services they rely on".

A Friday letter to the union from Dennis Holliday, the head of negotiations and labour relations for Alberta Health Services (AHS), details thousands of positions at the health authority that could be at risk.

"In many cases this restructuring could also include alternative service delivery models that help deliver services efficiently while keeping jobs in the Alberta economy", AHS said.

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