Locked-out staff at Monterey Place seniors care facility in northeast Calgary barely escaped injury on the weekend after two replacement workers drove their cars through the picket line and another threatened to do the same while gesturing obscenely.
“We’re lucky that no one was hurt or worse,” said Glen Scott, Vice-President with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, which represents the locked-out employees. “We negotiate picketing protocols with the employer for the safety of both sides, but it’s of no use if one side doesn’t follow them. It’s an outrage that our members must put their safety on the line just to exercise their legal right to picket.”
Under the protocols, agreed to by both sides of the labour dispute, AUPE members can picket on public property outside Monterey Place. Picketers can delay replacement workers for up to four minutes as they enter or exit the premises, but then must step aside and let them cross the picket line.
“It’s become clear to us that the employer is failing in its responsibility to educate the replacement workers about the protocols,” said AUPE staff negotiator John Wevers. “They have to make it clear to them that the picketers have a right to be there and to delay them briefly before they cross the line.”
The first incident happened around noon on Saturday. According to eyewitnesses, the replacement worker drove through the picket line without even slowing down, forcing six picketers to scramble out of the way.
Another replacement worker did the same thing about three hours later, just as four picketers were about to step in front of her vehicle.
A few minutes later a replacement worker exiting Monterey Place made angry gestures at the picketers indicating she was going to drive through the line. When one picketer told her that she was on the phone to Calgary police, the driver gestured obscenely.
The incidents were reported to police, but no charges were laid.
“Picket lines are always emotionally charged,” said Scott, who is on the picket line today. “You need a thick skin, but everyone also must be respectful of the other side’s safety. This blatant disregard for the picketers’ wellbeing strengthens their resolve to get a fair contract.”
Monterey Place’s owner, Calgary-based Triple A Living Communities, locked out 90 employees on June 26 in an effort to pressure them into accepting a contract offer that would keep their wages and benefits well below the industry standard.
AUPE is Alberta’s largest union, with nearly 80,000 members. Nearly half work in health care.
For more information, contact:
Glen Scott, AUPE Vice-President: (403) 479-4508
John Wevers, AUPE staff negotiator: (780) 238-4767
Andrew Hanon, AUPE communications: (780) 930-5218