The United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) organized a protest outside the Strathmore Hospital on Aug. 11, calling for fair discussion with the provincial government.
According to Hailey Izsak, the protest also occurred at more than 30 medical sites throughout the province.
“United Nurses of Alberta called for a day of action, and it’s just to get all healthcare workers and different providers out to say that we’re trying to move forward and look for something positive right now,” she said.
“We’ve been through a lot, COVID-19 has been a lot … everyone has worked really hard, now we’re in these contract negotiations with the province and they haven’t been going the best.”
Izsak explained UNA does not feel the province is being sincere at the discussion table regarding contracts for nurses and medical staff.
Izsak explained in discussions regarding potential changes to the contract for practicing nurses, the province has proposed 250 rollbacks and changes, something she said is “unprecedented.”
“I’ve never heard of anything like that before. It’s not focused at all, they want all sorts of different demands, [and] it’s not just about pay … it’s really disheartening for us,” she said. “With everything we’ve been through … we just want to sit down at the table, have a good talk with the employer and resolve some of the issues so we can move on.”
She added the Alberta Union of Professional Employees (AUPE) is also struggling in discussions with the province over workplace compensation and similar issues.
“Right now, wanting to make all these changes … I feel the province doesn’t really understand completely what healthcare workers do, what us as nurses do, or else they wouldn’t be proposing some of the things that they’re proposing,” she said.
Much of the arguments on the table are regarding how much nurses are paid in Alberta, which on average is just shy of six dollars more per hour than other provinces.
Izsak said looking at the discussion solely through the lens of the monetary perspective is too narrow and doesn’t encompass the entire issue.
“Shift differences vary, the amount of pay that you get [in] total varies, there’s incentives depending on your specialties. There’s all sorts of different concessions [for] all the different contracts and you can’t go apples [to] apples,” she said.
“I think we need to stop talking about just money … it’s a lot more than that. We’re in the midst of nursing shortages, there’s facilities that have bed closures – we’ve got a huge problem here and it’s not just about how much I’m making.”
Izsak explained the number of changes proposed for the contract suggests to her the province is ignorant of what it is nurses actually do.
The aim for UNA, she added, is simply to be able to sit down with the province and have civil discussions to feel heard and understood, as opposed to dismissed.
John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times