'We're not about to gut our public health care staff and services because the Stelmach government failed, yet again, to maximize the economic benefits of our most recent oil boom.' - Elisabeth Ballermann.
Edmonton (2 Nov. 2009) - Asking public servants, including health care workers, to bail out another Alberta government for mismanaging its finances is a "sure-bet way" of motivating more Albertans to go to the polls next provincial election, says Elisabeth Ballermann, president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA/NUPGE).
"It's taken us more than a decade to claw our way back from (Ralph) Klein's nonsense and we're not about to gut our public health care staff and services because the Stelmach government failed, yet again, to maximize the economic benefits of our most recent oil boom," says Ballermann.
She was responding to the provincial government's confirmation that it will ask HSAA and other public service unions to re-open their collective agreements and freeze the wages of members for the next two years. The government's ‘voluntary' wage freeze discussion will occur with unions, including HSAA, whose agreements extend beyond March 31, 2010.
"Elections Canada officials have been scratching their heads and wondering how to motivate Albertans to partake in the political process come election time. I think the Stelmach government has single-handedly addressed that issue," Ballermann said.
Last year, Alberta Health Services (AHS), under the authority of Health Minister Ron Liepert, doled out more than $10M in severance packages to CEOs of its former health regions.
At that time, Liepert and AHS Board Chair Ken Hughes defended the gold-plated packages. Hughes said at the time: "The former executives are receiving compensation in accordance with the specific terms of their individual contracts."
"So, here we are one year later, and our provincial government now has the audacity to demand that hard-working Albertans replenish its coffers," Ballermann said. "The arrogance is unparalleled," said Ballermann.
HSAA has continuously lobbied the province to increase the number of academic seats available in numerous health care disciplines while replenishing the number of professionals currently working in the system - a system compromised by cuts made during the Klein era.
"We (HSAA) are partners in the process of public health care in Alberta, and without question, we have done our part in the past to help the government dig itself out of deficit despair," says Scott Pattison, HSAA's communications officer.
"The climate for any new cuts is non-existent - period! And let's be clear - what the government isn't telling Albertans is this will ultimately translate into further cuts to health services. This isn't about preserving or enhancing our health services, which have been under-funded for years," said Pattison.
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