“This situation is clear proof of the dangers of contracting out vital hospital services. If these workers were still under the roof of AHS, the corporate drive for profits would not be a factor and we would not be in this situation." - Elisabeth Ballermann, HSAA President.
Calgary (23 Nov. 2012) - Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians at three Calgary hospitals voted overwhelmingly on November 21 in favour of strike action against their employer, Shoppers Drug Mart.
“These hard-working, frontline health-care staff are worried about a looming deterioration in the level of care provided to patients,” says Elisabeth Ballermann, President of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA/NUPGE), which represents the nearly 50 employees at the outpatient pharmacies at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, the Foothills Medical Centre and the Peter Lougheed Centre.
“They would rather go to work than go on strike, but see no alternative. The employer’s determination to slash wages and working conditions will inevitably lead to a decline in morale and the levels of care provided to patients at these locations. That’s why they voted 90 per cent in favour of strike action,” says Ballermann.
In a move that puts profits before patients, the new employer is seeking to slash wages and benefits. Existing employees would fall behind other hospital pharmacy workers by between $6,400 and $8,600 per year. Under a proposed two-tier structure, new hires would suffer a further cut of between $6,400 and $7,300 per year.
“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,” says Ballermann.
“Under these proposals, employees at these 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 deserve,” she says.
The Alberta Health Services (AHS) contracted out the outpatient pharmacies at these hospitals last year.
“This situation is clear proof of the dangers of contracting out vital hospital services. If these workers were still under the roof of AHS, the corporate drive for profits would not be a factor and we would not be in this situation. It’s now up to AHS and Shoppers Drug Mart to ensure there’s a fair deal that protects patients and respects employees,” says Ballermann. “Our members want to avoid a strike and are ready to go back to the bargaining table at any time.”
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