Nurses deserve thanks for standing up in defense of quality Medicare

EDMONTON - Nurses in Alberta deserve the heartfelt thanks and congratulations of all Albertans for their strong stand in defense of quality health care - both at the bargaining table and away from it, says a spokesman for the Alberta Federation of Labour.

"All Albertans owe the nurses and their union, the United Nurses of Alberta, a great debt of gratitude," said AFL Secretary Treasurer Les Steel after learning that the nurses had ratified their latest collective agreement with health care boards and the operators of long-term care facilities around the province.

"The latest contract negotiations were just part of the nurses' on-going battle to defend the quality and accessibility of health services in Alberta," said Steel. "At no time were the nurses only thinking of themselves. Right from the beginning, their major goal was to preserve and protect the quality of care in Alberta's health care system.

"That's why they called for the hiring of new staff - so we could ease the critical staff shortages affecting hospitals and other health facilities across the province. And that's why they called for salary increases - so we could attract the nurses we need to make the system work effectively."

Steel says that the nurses have been at the forefront of the campaign to protect Medicare in Alberta ever since the Klein government started it's budget slashing campaign in 1993 - a campaign that resulted in the closure of almost half the hospital beds in Edmonton and Calgary and which threw literally thousands of health care workers out of work.

"I think the Alberta health care system would be in even worse shape than it is if it wasn't for the actions taken by the nurses and other health care workers. These workers have led the fight against under-funding and under-staffing. What little re-investment in health care that there has been is, to a large extent, the result of the work done by UNA and other health care workers and unions."

Steel admits that the latest collective agreement is not everything the nurses wanted. But he said several important steps have been taken in the right direction - especially when it comes to things like scheduling, wages and workload.

"The struggle continues," said Steel. "Over the next few years, there will be more battles - over things like funding, adequate staffing levels and the spread of private, for-profit health care. As usual, the nurses will be at the forefront - along with all the other health care unions in this province."

For more information call:

Les Steel, AFL Secretary Treasurer:  483-3021 (W)   or   499-4135 (Cell)


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