Threat to privatize internal departments looms large
Last month, we wrote to Carewest, CapitalCare and Alberta Health Services (AHS) asking them to clarify their positions of the sale of their continuing-care centres.
The answers we got were not reassuring.
While we had been hearing for some time from some sources in management that sales of these facilities wasn’t about to happen immediately, the information had been vague and inconsistent.
You deserve clarity and certainty. So do the residents of these homes and their families. It is stressful for workers, residents and families to have the threat of a sale of the facilities and the loss of jobs hanging over you.
That’s why it’s important to continue to fight against the sales. Please sign the Stop The Sell Off! letters here.
For sale or not for sale? That is the question
We asked if the sale of Carewest and CapitalCare facilities were on hold and if they and AHS would not move ahead for three or four years, as some members had been told.
AHS simply said that “the sale of both Carewest and CapitalCare is not being explored at this time.” (Emphasis added.)
There was no commitment that it would not be sold for three or four years. There was nothing about when AHS would explore the sale.
In other words, these facilities, and your jobs, could be up for sale at any time.
Carewest said the recommendation to sell “has not been acted on to date.” (Emphasis added.)
It added that the decision on whether to sell was entirely in the hands of AHS.
CapitalCare did not respond to our letter.
What about privatizing or outsourcing of departments?
Some members have been told that AHS is considering the privatization or outsourcing of internal departments including food services, transportation and pharmacy and that this process “will take months to years to be implemented …”
We asked AHS, Carewest and CapitalCare what was happening with privatization and outsourcing on these departments.
AHS did not answer on this issue. CapitalCare did not reply to our letter. Carewest said: “In terms of the potential privatization of internal departments, Carewest has received no formal notice that we will or will not be included in AHS initiatives to privatize any services.”
What does this mean?
We know that the current UCP government is committed to outsourcing jobs within AHS.
In October, AHS issued a Request For Proposals (RFP) for private businesses to take over hospital laundry at 54 sites across the province. They expect to pick a vendor by March 15, about two months from now. This would mean the loss of 428 jobs.
That is just a drop in the bucket.
In October, Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced the government was pushing ahead with privatization of laboratory services, in-patient food, environmental services and supply-chain procurement. These moves would kill 9,700 support jobs at AHS.
Let’s not forget that Carewest and CapitalCare are owned by AHS. The policies and approach taken by the parent company are almost certainly going to be applied to the subsidiaries.
When they make their move, they will move quickly. As we can see with what’s happening in laundry services, it can go from seeking proposals to accepting a corporate bid within a few months.
What about loss of funding?
In our letters, we also asked about the possible elimination of floor funding for continuing-care operators. This was mentioned in an earlier Carewest email that said it could lead to decreased funding for operators.
This would be bad news for residents and workers.
AHS, Carewest and Capital Care refused to answer on this issue.
What about private beds at the Gene Zwozdesky Centre expansion?
Members have heard rumours that the Gene Zwozdesky Centre expansion of Capital Care Norwood in Edmonton could open with privately operated beds instead of having the beds run by CapitalCare.
We asked for confirmation that the original plans and funding to open those beds as a part of the publicly operated Capital Care was still in place.
AHS and Capital Care refused to answer on this issue.
Who really decides?
Tyler Shandro is the Health Minister with the UCP government. This government is ideologically committed to selling off as much of health care and other government services to corporations as it can, as quickly as it can.
Shandro and his colleagues think you are paid too much and want to take away your benefits and access to a modest pension.
They favour the model of private continuing care, where it’s almost impossible for workers to get full-time work or to get benefits, forcing people to work multiple jobs at lower pay just to make ends meet. Unfortunately, the previous NDP government also allowed private interests to dominate the continuing-care sector.
The vision of Shandro and the UCP is to hand over care operations to corporations, so they can cut pay, cut benefits and cut services. Their aim is to make profits by taking from you and residents.
Carewest and CapitalCare members have performed heroically in the last 10 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the worst health crisis in more than 100 years.
You have proved your worth to Albertans and they support you. A poll taken shortly after the wildcat strike of Oct. 26 showed majority support from Albertans for the actions of workers that day. Albertans know that when you take action to defend your jobs, you are fighting for quality care and publicly owned health care.
Now, it’s time to continue the fight and to keep the up the pressure to save jobs and quality care. If you haven’t already done so, please sign the Stop The Sell Off! letters here.