Message from the UNA Local 115 Executive (Apr 2010)

Message from Secretary Ruth Duffy

Nursing in Alberta is clearly at a crossroads. Do we go forward to an improved Collective Agreement, maintain the ―status quo or turn back to the ―bad old days‖ of the 1990‖s? Dr. Duckett, in a meeting with CARNA, is quoted as saying that ―Nursing‘s future is no longer in Nursing‘s hands.‖ Clearly, this is not acceptable to any nurse in this province.

We are constantly being bombarded with conflicting messages from management and the government. Our infamous former Minister of Health felt that nurses were ―whiners‖ and should be replaced with ―lower cost alternatives‖. We faced constant public criticism from the CEO as well as from the ministry, so severely that UNA lodged a ―Code of Conduct‖ complaint against Stephen Duckett. The cabinet shuffle followed by the provincial budget, seemed, for a time, to be a breath of fresh air, but then came the opening of bargaining with the unimaginable rollbacks proposed by AHS. More confusing, the new Minister of Health speaks frequently of the valuable role of nurses in this province. There is an obvious disconnect.

Never in the entire history of UNA, and probably for the entire history of nursing in Alberta, has the employer presented such draconian proposals. One would think that proposals are just that, proposals, and the real agenda would soon appear in bargaining. Unfortunately this is not the case and now, less than a month into negotiations, UNA has been forced to seek mediation as the employer refuses to budge from their initial ―offer.

The huge rollbacks proposed by AHS are having a devastating effect on the morale of front line staff. As nurses, we are feeling very devalued, over-worked and frustrated. Of forty-three articles in the Collective Agreement, management wants major rollbacks (or actual elimination) of over thirty-three.

Many nurses are voicing the feeling that we are in they’ll fight of our lives‖ but in reality, we are fighting for so much more. Without a fair Collective Agreement, we are unable to protect our patients through ensuring safe staffing levels via PRC and our col-leagues through the OH&S process. From a much more global perspective, we are also fighting for universal, safe public health care. UNA has long been the leader in opposing the Alberta government‘s repeated efforts to introduce private health care, making a right to health and safety, a privilege only for the wealthy.

Other public service unions are awaiting the outcome of our negotiations with ―baited breath‖ as we can be sure that if the government is successful in the rollbacks they are proposing to us, they will then attempt to foist the same type of contract upon the other unions. Further, Nursing across Canada is closely watching Alberta as, to quote a Canadian Nurses‘ Association spokes-person, ― what happens in Alberta is unlikely to stay in Alberta.

It is time for us, as nurses, to ―Move Forward Together‖ and to not allow government budgets to be the driving force in health care. The only way we will be able to counter what is clearly a much broader government agenda is for us, as nurses, to stick solidly together. We must prove Stephen Duckett to be wrong and make sure that the future of our profession remains in our hands!

I am strongly encouraging everyone to become actively informed and engaged through speaking with colleagues and more importantly becoming fully informed through frequently accessing the news on UNANet.

Please call the Local 115 office at (403) 670-9960 or email local115exec@una.ab.ca. with any comments or questions.

I wish everyone a wonderful spring and summer and great holidays!

Ruth Duffy
UNA Local 115 Secretary
Ph: 403-670-9960 Fax: 403-263-2908
e-mail: kchampagne@una.ab.ca

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