Healthcare workers join wildcat strike

Striking healthcare workers in High Prairie raise their fists in a show of solidarity Oct. 26 during a wildcat strike, whcih was called in response to the provincial government’s decision to outsource 11,000 laundry and lab tech jobs.

Susan Thompson
South Peace News

Peace River healthcare workers walked off the job Oct. 26 in response to the provincial government’s decision to outsource 11,000 laundry and lab tech jobs.

A wildcat strike is a strike that hasn’t been organized or sanctioned by a union, but is organized by workers themselves. More than 1,000 workers from more than 30 facilities across the province took part in the wildcat strike, including High Prairie.

Jenn Wright-Ford is in the Peace River hospital where she is still recovering after a serious fall from a roof. She says she fully supports the workers.

“I am a patient here. I’m OK with the strike. I wish I had known sooner so I could help make other arrangements, but the BS that the Kenney government is putting our province and amazing healthcare system through is atrocious. They are trying to cripple it to ‘prove’ that their profitable private system will be better,” Wright-Ford says.

Despite her own pain from breaking four ribs, two wrists, her collarbone and shoulder, she joined striking workers outside the Peace River hospital and took to Facebook to speak up in support and to let people know patients were still being cared for by staff.

She says the food she got the day of the strike may not have been as good as normal but was still food, and patients were “not starving.” They even got some pizza.

“We are doing fine but we want the people who work hard to care for us to be treated fairly and we want our public healthcare system to be put back to the way it was before Kenney started crippling it,” Wright-Ford says.

Wright-Ford says she has spoken to other patients since they often stop to chat at a safe distance when they see each other.

“I haven’t chatted with every patient, of course, but the ones who I do meet in the hall or outside are supportive of the strike and not at all impressed with the moves the UCP has been making.”

The evening of Oct. 26, the Alberta Labour Relations Board declared the strike to be illegal, and workers were back to work Oct. 27.

Finance Minister Travis Toews told reporters at the legislature Oct. 27 that Alberta Health Services [AHS] is now considering “disciplinary options” that could see the workers who walked off the job fined, suspended, or fired from their jobs.

Toews adds AHS will ask the board to investigate whether AUPE union leaders actually were involved in organizing the strike.

AUPE President Guy Smith insists the walkout was led by workers, not union officials, and in a statement issued Oct. 27 AUPE says leaders can’t comment on AHS’s labour board complaint but any investigations of individual employees may prompt the union to file grievances.

Representatives from the Alberta Federation of Labour, Canadian Union of Public Employees, United Nurses of Alberta, Health Sciences Association of Alberta, and the U of A Non-Academic Staff Association, have since launched a Website asking Albertans to “pledge” to “stand up to Kenney.”

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