AUPE filed a strike vote application today in preparation for a likely strike at two Covenant seniors care centres, Villa Marie in Red Deer and Holy Cross Manor in Calgary, a move the union says is necessary to protect the quality of care.
“It seems to us that Covenant is taking advantage of a loophole in government regulations,” said AUPE Negotiator Kevin Davediuk. “They are funded to cover wages for direct care, but it appears they are using a big portion of those dollars for other things.”
Employees at the two facilities are paid as much as 25 per cent less than provincial averages, despite the fact that Covenant receives government funding at standard rates to cover the provision of direct care services to Alberta seniors. AUPE believes this gap threatens the quality of care for residents by contributing to shifts remaining unfilled and a high rate of staff turnover.
Meetings held by AUPE with employees at the two sites last week showed a strong resolve from auxiliary nursing and support staff to go on strike if necessary in order to compel Covenant to return to bargaining with a mandate to bring rates up to industry standards. Over 85 per cent of employees attended these meetings and signed strike petitions unanimously endorsing strike action.
“I am proud of the unity and resolve these workers are showing to stand up for a fair contract that will protect quality care,” said AUPE president Guy Smith. “AUPE will support them and we will also engage government representatives to address the root of the problem.”
Although Alberta Health Services funding does specify the portion of funding to seniors care operators that is intended for directed to direct care (including wages for auxiliary nursing staff and other support employees), no regulations exist to prevent operators like Covenant from using part of those dollars for other purposes.
The strike vote will be held in Red Deer on Dec. 7 and in Calgary on Dec. 8. Legal strikes at the two facilities could begin 72 hours following a successful strike vote.
For more information:
Kevin Davediuk, AUPE Negotiator: (780) 729-7916
Guy Smith, AUPE President: (780) 265-2294
Merryn Edwards, AUPE Communications: (780) 952-1951