New regulations set the stage for attack on health care workers rights, contracts

EDMONTON - The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) is responding angrily to regulations released yesterday that flesh-out the provincial government's controversial new labour law, Bill 27.

The regulations "trample on the rights of health care workers and remove all pretence that the government is an impartial third party when it comes to labour relations in this province," says AFL President Les Steel.

"With these new rules, the government has regulated away the right of workers to have the union of their choice," he says. "It has regulated out of existence freely-negotiated legal contracts. It strips the democratic right-to-strike from community health workers without a shred of justification. And, it is forcing unions to reorganize into dysfunctional bargaining units."

Steel says there are many other problems with the Regulation aside from its attack on the democratic rights of workers.

"The government is basically hijacking the Alberta Labour Relations Board - which is supposed to be an impartial, third-party tribunal - and is using it as an instrument to ram these changes through," says Steel.

"There is no consideration about whether the Board has the expertise or resources to make the changes, or if this role is even appropriate for a tri-partite, neutral body."

Steel says that the LRB is already under-staffed and hopelessly behind in rendering decisions on other labour matters - so these new burdens may derail the board's work in other sectors of the economy and with other groups of workers.

Steel predicts that putting the new Bill 27 regulations into practice will create a nightmare of litigation and flawed, unmanageable administrative systems. Further, he is sure that labour relations in health care - already at a dangerously low level - will deteriorate badly during implementation of the regulations.

"I think the government has deliberately thrown the entire health care system into chaos," says Steel. "They're trying to use this 'reorganization' as a cover to rollback the wage gains of health care workers and to punish health care unions."

"It's ironic", concludes Steel, "that this government, which refuses to regulate our electric and gas utilities to help Albertans, is all to willing to over-regulate health care at the expense of the basic rights of healthcare workers."

Health care workers themselves will protest Bill 27 and its attached regulations at several worksite information pickets this afternoon. Noon-hour information pickets will be staged at both the Grey Nuns hospital in South Edmonton and the Misericordia hospital in West Edmonton.

At the Grey Nuns event, which Steel plans to attend, nurses will attach their contracts to black helium balloons and "send them to heaven." At the Misericordia event, which will be attended by AFL Secretary Treasurer Kerry Barrett, health care workers will lay wreaths to mark the "death of their rights and their contracts."

For more information call:

Les Steel, AFL President  @ 780-483-3021 (wk) 780-499-4135 (cell)

Gil McGowan, AFL Communications @ 780-483-3021 (wk)

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