Back to pre-pandemic normal: the UCP declare war on nurses again

Not everyone has gotten back to their pre-pandemic normal yet but Alberta’s UCP government sure has. The war with nurses is back on, and AHS dropped a hell of a bomb last week, aiming for 3% rollbacks to nursing wages along with a host of other nickel-and-dime cuts from all angles. This, after Alberta’s nurses have already been stuck with years of salary freezes. This in an Alberta where hospitals in even the capital city are closing beds for lack of staff. And this, after those nurses have been in a grueling fight for over a year to keep coronavirus from overwhelming the whole province.

(It’s not actually over, of course. Alberta Health Services reports that they are aware of hundreds of active cases in the province, still, with about half of them being the dangerous, more-infectious variants. Three more deaths were announced on July 11.)

The importance of a reliable and properly-supported health care system—and I’d argue Alberta’s is already not reliable or properly-supported—has never been more obvious. Nurses themselves are as popular as they’ve ever been. Slashing their wages now is so offensive that you’d almost wonder if Jason Kenney and Travis Toews are trying to see if they can push their polling numbers under zero somehow.

It’s tense over on the nurses’ side. Morale is low and workers are burnt out. Many hospitals and clinics are suffering from severe staff shortages already; even the Royal Alex in Edmonton has had to close emergency room beds this week for lack of nurses. UNA President Heather Smith has told the media that the union’s members are demanding a strike vote, and I believe it.

A province-wide nursing strike would be absolute chaos. Let’s hope Toews gets his boot off the nurses’ necks before he engineers a disaster.


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