Our co-workers at AHS GSS are continuing to prepare to fight against the UCP plan to privatize essential public services. As Kenney continues to hold on to his plan to sell Alberta Health Services off for spare parts, we’re getting ready for a long fight to save our jobs.
In the Implementation Plan that details how the government plans to privatize these services, one of the sectors listed as a target is Information Technology (IT) services. These workers handle tech support, data security, and anything related to AHS computing technology.
We can see what happens after privatization of IT: it makes tech support unreliable, removes AHS control over data, and puts patient data at risk.
In this bargaining update, we’ll look at what happens when IT gets outsourced.
In the Implementation Plan, recommendation 38 states that “AHS has a predominantly in-house model for IT Services and other infrastructure such as data centres, networks, mobility services, and desk side support. Other jurisdictions are moving towards increased use of cloud and other managed services providers to improve quality, reduce the need for capital investment, and realize overall cost savings.”
What does this mean? It means that AHS, under pressure from the UCP following their Blue Ribbon Ernst & Young report, may be looking into hiring an external company to manage AHS IT services. In this scenario, they would be looking at “cloud” services, which means that our health data would be stored online.
If this were to be the case, then we can expect layoffs. Those of us who are laid off will be unlikely to be rehired by the private contractor, since those companies have their own staff already. If we were lucky enough to be rehired, we could expect significantly reduced wages and benefits.
That’s only the beginning of the problem with IT privatization. The effects of such a program will spiral through the whole healthcare system.
One of the most serious problems with cloud-based IT services like the ones mentioned in the Implementation Plan is that they are massive targets for cyber-criminals. Health data is particularly important because it contains so much private information about us—from our names, addresses, and more identifying information. They are a goldmine for would-be identity thieves.
A February 2020 cyberattack on NRC Health, which stores patient records for millions of Americans, led to serious concerns about privacy breaches.
The company sells its software, which stores patient records, to 9,000 healthcare organizations in the United States—or 75 per cent of the country’s largest hospital chains. Having such a massive amount of data centralized in one company’s cloud servers paints a massive target for identity thieves and cybercriminals.
And it doesn’t end there. Because the data is such a high-value target, data management companies are extremely secretive about their security practices—they are always a “black box.” This means that if AHS were to privatize its data security, then the public would lose any control over how that data is stored and protected.
Healthcare data is one of the most important targets for cybercriminals across the world, and that danger is increasing exponentially. In 2019, 41.4 million patient records were hacked, a nearly 50 per cent increase from the year before. The number is increasing exponentially from year to year, and shows no signs of slowing down. That’s why AHS needs to maintain direct control over patient data, and ensure that data is secured properly, with democratic oversight.
One of the other important issues with IT privatization is that it leads to an increase in errors and failures when private companies engage in even the most basic functions of the services they are taking over.
When the American state of Indiana privatized IT for its Health and Human Services department—the umbrella for many of the state’s social services—it was such a disaster that the state had to break the contract mid-way and bring services back in-house. The error rate for welfare applications jumped from 4 per cent before outsourcing, to 18 per cent afterwards.
The state and the contractor fought a long and expensive court battle afterwards over the broken contract—eliminating any savings that had come with outsourcing.
When it comes to our healthcare, we can’t afford to dramatically increase our error rates. Those statistics are the lives of the patients that we care for, and we refuse to put them at risk.
We Fight Back
The UCP, if they had their way, would sell off all of our public services to the highest bidder. Healthcare, education, social services—nothing would be left unscathed in Jason Kenney’s ideological crusade against a just society.
But the UCP can be stopped. It’s up to us to get organized at our worksites, to talk to our co-workers, and get ready to fight to defeat this government’s privatization plan. They might have money and power, but what we have is more important—we’ve got people, and we’ve got solidarity.
Send an email to Kate Jacobson and Farid Iskandar, your AUPE organizers, to join the fight. And reach out to your Local’s negotiating representatives to see how you can get involved and spread the word of these incoming cuts at your workplace.
We’re going to continue researching the effects of privatization on workers and patients. In the next weeks, we’ll be looking at protective services.
AHS GSS Negotiating Team
Local 054 Julie Woodford - email@example.com Charity Hill (A) - firstname.lastname@example.org
Local 056 Deborah Nawroski – email@example.com Tammy Lanktree (A) – firstname.lastname@example.org
Local 057 Darren Graham - email@example.com Wendy Kicia (A) - firstname.lastname@example.org
Local 058 Anton Schindler - email@example.com Dave Ibach (A) - dI322j@gmail.com
Local 095 Stacey Ross - firstname.lastname@example.org Dusan Milutinovic (A) - email@example.com
Lamont Health Care Centre GSS Jessica Kroeker - firstname.lastname@example.org Carol Palichuk - email@example.com
AUPE Resource Staff for AHS GSS
Chris Dickson, Lead Negotiator - firstname.lastname@example.org
Jason Rattray, Negotiator - email@example.com
Farid Iskandar, Organizer - firstname.lastname@example.org
Kate Jacobson, Organizer - email@example.com
Alexander Delorme, Communications - firstname.lastname@example.org