EDMONTON, ALBERTA--(Marketwire - July 4, 2012) - Recent strikes and labour unrest at continuing care facilities across the province have prompted the Alberta Continuing Care Association (ACCA) to call for the Alberta Government to revise its labour laws to prevent any disruption in essential services or threats to the safety of residents in Alberta's publicly funded continuing care facilities.
Current labour laws that prevent strikes in auxiliary hospitals and in continuing care facilities operated directly by Alberta Health Services (AHS) are meant to protect residents in the event of a labour dispute. However, those same laws fail to protect residents in nursing homes and designated supportive living facilities operated by non-profit and private providers.
Alberta is the only province in Canada that does not have legislation to protect vulnerable continuing care residents during a labour dispute. Updating provincial legislation will ensure that the health and safety of older, fragile residents' with complex care needs will not be jeopardized during labour disputes.
Continuing care providers are in a difficult position when it comes to negotiating labour agreements with the unions demanding higher wages and benefits for their care and support staff. "It is important to note that nursing home and designated supportive living operators have no control over the funding they receive." states Bruce West, ACCA Executive Director "Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services set health funding levels and decide on the maximum accommodation fees that can be charged.
Many members have reported to the ACCA that current wage and benefit demands are above this year's announced health funding increase. Accommodation fees have not been adjusted since February 2011. Increasingly, unions expect operators to match the wages and benefits provided by AHS, regardless of their individual financial situations. This has forced some operators to sign financially risky agreements to avoid or end strikes. In the long run this may have an impact on operators' ability to provide quality care to their residents.
Non-profit and private for-profit care operators are accountable for ensure that public funds are used in the most effective way to provide core services and ensure that the quality of care remains high. Each operator must decide how those funds are spent to best meet the needs of their residents, while adhering to strict government standards. "It's an extremely difficult balancing act for each operator. Do they put more people on the front lines or provide higher wages and benefits to fewer staff? Do they undertake needed repairs and renovations to older buildings or enhance meal services?" continues Bruce "We need to allow operators and unions to bargain effectively without putting the safety and well-being of vulnerable Albertans at risk."