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What’s the next stop on the UCP’s road to privatization?

By Maureen Mariampillai, Communications Staff

Oct 11, 2023

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AUPE members are proud to provide the public services Albertans depend on. Unfortunately, the provincial government is driving us down a privatized path that would destroy our jobs and the quality of these very services. 

Premier Danielle Smith has made it clear that her government will move ahead with this failed roadmap. Before we talk about their next stop, let’s review the UCP government’s privatization scheme so far. 

"The UCP is laying out their road map to privatization, we can see that based on which companies the government let take over hospital retail food services."
Darren Graham 2023

Darren Graham, Vice-President

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On Dec. 31, 2019, the Kenney government paid a contractor, Ernst & Young, $2 million for a report that prescribed privatizing key Alberta Health Services support services such as laundry, housekeeping, food services, security, home care, as well as selling long-term care spaces. 

AUPE members fought for their jobs, but the government moved ahead and fired hospital laundry and retail food services workers. 

We all know how that’s going: supposedly clean linens return to hospitals soiled and the new cafeteria food sucks. 

Now, AUPE Vice-President and Anti-Privatization Committee Chair Darren Graham fears the government’s next target is patient food services. 

“The UCP is laying out their road map to privatization, we can see that based on which companies the government let take over hospital retail food services,” says Graham. “These companies also offer inpatient and environmental services, and we’re already seeing them in some of the common spaces in Calgary hospitals.” 

Similar privatization schemes have a horrible track record. For example, Ralph Klein’s Calgary Health Authority failed, and the government eventually had to bail-out privatized hip and knee treatment centres. 

Another example is when environmental services in Calgary hospitals were contracted out in 1994, around the same time as the laundry workers’ strike. The government was forced to switch gears and their privatization scheme stalled. 

Back to the present, the government has announced it will spend $400 million outsourcing surgeries to for-profit facilities. The Parkland Institute published a report showing this expansion of chartered surgical facilities has diverted resources away from public hospitals. 

Parkland also found that, between 2018-2019 and 2021-2022, surgical volumes in private chartered surgical facilities increased by 48 per cent while surgical activity in public hospitals only declined by 12 per cent. 

In other words, privatization did not help Alberta’s health care system, it just meant more surgeries were performed in for-profit facilities that only the rich can access. 

“It simply does not work, and we cannot let history keep repeating itself,” says Graham. “In a hospital setting, if the government contracts out jobs like cleaning service and they don’t do their job to a certain standard, it puts patients at risk because environmental services are the first line of defense against ‘super bugs’ and cross contamination.” 

AUPE negotiated important job-security language in our most recent collective agreements, forcing Alberta Health Services to stop contracting out jobs until March 30, 2024. You can bet Premier Smith is ready to get back on the road to killing our jobs and contracting-out services once that agreement expires. 

So how do we fight back? 

With over 81,000 members entering bargaining in 2024, we need to stand in solidarity with each other and leverage our collective power to fight for job security, better working conditions, and wage increases. 

Now is the time to get organized, so spread the word amongst your coworkers and learn more about fighting privatization by visiting aupe.org/about/committees/anti-privatization-committee 

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