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Government not intervening in Vegreville layoffs
EDMONTON -- Staff who were laid off from an Alberta health care facility and offered the opportunity to reapply for lower wages have received an answer to their pleas for help from the provincial government: no.
The ministry told CTV News Edmonton on Thursday it was firm in its intention to not intervene in the upcoming layoffs at the Century Park seniors care facility in Vegreville.
According to current and former employees, their B.C.-based employer, privately run Optima Living, issued layoff notices to more than 50 workers at the beginning of September after deciding to contract the work to another B.C.-based company, Pro Vita.
The employees say they're able to reapply, but that their wages would suffer about an $8/hour pay cut.
Speaking at the legislature alongside NDP MLAs David Shepherd and Christina Gray, who also serves as the Opposition's critic for labour and immigration, the Vegreville employees again asked for help from the provincial government.
"We're actually quite disappointed with the politicians of all parties because we have reached out and they told us to quit panicking," said former employee Suzanne Malo.
"Well we're beyond panicking. Oct. 31 is the last day."
Coworker and union chapter chair Rod Kusiek added, "Does this sound right? That we were in the bargaining process, we were working with this employer for years, and they can just arbitrarily fire 52 people with no accountability?"
Shepherd said the previous health minister, Sarah Hoffman, met with Optima in 2018 to prevent the layoffs from happening.
"So we're calling on the minister to answer a question today," Shepherd said, speaking of Health Minister Tyler Shandro.
"Is his vision of seniors care for the Century Park building to provide a return to shareholders in Vancouver, or a home to seniors in Vegreville?"
However, a ministry spokesperson said the government has made its position clear.
"(The minister) does not plan to intervene in the process that’s underway," Steve Buick said in a statement to CTV News Edmonton.
"He sympathizes with the staff and understands the new operator intends to hire mainly from the existing staff, and that there are other jobs available in Vegreville and area, so he hopes most or all the staff will have jobs at the end of the transition."
The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees is filing grievances to Alberta's labour relations board on behalf of the staff.
The government said it would be watching the transition in Vegreville to ensure the quality of care is continued.