Hardisty Care Centre nurses, health care aides hit the picket line
Published Tuesday, May 22, 2012 11:28AM MDT
More than 100 licensed practical nurses and health care aides at Hardisty Care Centre have served strike notice Tuesday morning.
The workers at the 180-bed east Edmonton care centre at 6420 101 Avenue began their strike against its Vancouver-based employer at 7:00 AM.
The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees says its nurses and health care aides are fed up with wages, arguing they're not being paid enough.
AUPE says Hardisty employees are being paid 20 to 30 per cent below that paid by Alberta Health Services and other private operators despite the fact that Hardisty receives public taxpayer money through AHS.
"I guess their profit margin is more important to them than having a good, strong sustainable workplace to provide quality care to residents," said AUPE President Guy Smith.
"Our members don't want to go on strike but they've been forced into this situation."
But employer Park Place Seniors Living says to agree with what AUPE is asking for would mean layoffs and reduced quality of care for residents at Hardisty.
"We have told this union for us to do that we would have to lay off a number of members," said Ian West, vice president of operations with Parks Place Seniors Living.
"That would mean there are less people providing less service for residents who need it."
West also argues that the company is just offering competitive rates.
"Private operators can operate at a lower cost, so I guess the taxpayers of Alberta need to ask why the government is paying 20 per cent too much," West said.
In response to the strike notice, Hardisty Care Centre issued a lockout notice for 7:00 am Tuesday.
However, Hardisty has advised all staff that "the lock-out notice is not a suspension of service and does not prevent them from coming to work. AUPE staff have the right to come to work and the right to strike. Those who choose to continue caring for the residents may do so under the contract consistent with the employer's last offer."
Tuesday's strike and lockout notice comes after a year of failed negotiations and would affect the majority of workers at Hardisty.
Park Place had rejected two independent recommendations previously.
One of those recommendations would see workers earn the same as their AHS counterparts in three years.
Park Place says it wants to move to voluntary binding arbitration but says union officials haven't agreed to that.
Meanwhile union officials say they would come back to the bargaining table at any time but will not prevent the strike from taking place Tuesday.
"If we have to bargain while we're on the picket line, we'll do that," Smith said.
With files from Laura Tupper & Jessica Earle.