Employees at Calgary outpatient pharmacies warn public care levels being undermined
Calgary (16 Nov. 2012) – Employees at outpatient pharmacies at three Calgary hospitals are warning the public today about a threat to the level of care being provided to patients.
“These pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are committed to providing the best level of care for patients, but their ability to provide that care is being undermined,” says Laine Burlingham, Labour Relations Officer at the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA/NUPGE), which represents the nearly 50 employees.
Alberta Health Services has outsourced the outpatient pharmacies at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, the Foothills Medical Centre and the Peter Lougheed Centre to Shoppers Drug Mart.
In order to boost profits, the new employer is seeking to slash wages of new hires, meaning they’ll get paid between $6,000 and $10,000 per year less than existing employees doing the same work. Shoppers Drug Mart also wants a three-year wage freeze for existing employees and large reductions to vacation, sick leave, maternity/paternity benefits and pensions.
“Such a drastic lowering of wages and working conditions will inevitably lead to a decline in morale and the levels of care provided to patients at these Calgary locations,” says Burlingham. “Under these proposals, all employees at these three sites will earn less than employees doing the same work at hospital sites across the province. In our competitive labour market, qualified and experienced staff will leave to work at other sites and it will be impossible to maintain the levels of service Calgary patients now receive and deserve,” she says.
“Shoppers Drug Mart wants to treat these pharmacies like its retail outlets at your local mall and pay comparable wages. But this ignores the fact that the work done at these outpatient pharmacies is highly specialized and requires extra training and certification. They handle complex medical situations that don’t arise at retail outlets.”
This week, Shoppers Drug Mart reported year-to-date sales are up 2.7 per cent to $8.06 billion. “There is no acceptable reason for Shoppers Drug Mart to be undermining health-care standards for Calgary patients.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE