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Frontline hospital workers walk off the job across Alberta

Last Updated Oct 26, 2020 at 11:10 am PST

Frontline hospital workers with the AUPE walk off the job at the Royal Alexandria Hospital in Edmonton on Oct. 26, 2020. (PHOTO: Courtney Theriault, CityNews)

EDMONTON (660 NEWS) – Hundreds of frontline workers with The Alberta Union or Provincial Employees (AUPE) have walked off the job at several hospitals across Alberta.

Union president Guy Smith said in a release nursing-care and support workers decided today that there was no other option but to fight to protect Albertans at risk, especially during the deadliest pandemic in a century.

“Anger has been building among members for months,” said Smith. “The recent announcement by Health Minister Tyler Shandro of 11,000 jobs being cut in the middle of a global deadly pandemic was the last straw for them.”

He added by constantly short-staffing public health care, this government is pushing members to the breaking point exactly when Albertans need them most.

“Across this province, working people are rising up against Jason Kenney’s job-killing policies and are joining the fight in solidarity. This was a decision taken by the members themselves.

Some of the hospitals affected by the strike include Foothills Hospital in Calgary and the Royal Alexandria Hospital in Edmonton.

The job action is a wildcat strike, meaning the AUPE members decided on their own without giving notice to the hospital or government.

The United Nurses of Alberta are among several unions standing in solidarity with the action, although members will not be formally joining the strikes.

“We are encouraging our members to join their colleagues as they are available on picket lines, and encouraging them not to do work of AUPE workers who are on strike,” said UNA President Heather Smith.

Smith said it was surprising news Monday morning, but it also felt inevitable due to crumbling relations between health care workers and the government.

“Certainly the atmosphere in the province for several months has been very hostile, despite the pandemic, which is incredible.”

Smith added that this is a fight over publicly delivered health care, and believes it should be an issue for all Albertans.

The provincial government has yet to respond to the job action but the Opposition NDP issued a statement calling for the UCP to stop attacking frontline workers.

“Jason Kenney’s proposal to privatize the work of 11,000 front line healthcare workers in the middle of a pandemic will absolutely result in poorer quality healthcare for Albertans,” said NDP leader Rachel Notley in a statement.

“His suggestion that this can be done without compromising care defies common sense. For the sake of Alberta patients and the people who care about them, this reckless plan must stop.