Nearly 6,000 Alberta public-sector jobs could be eliminated as the UCP government tries to cut costs and find efficiencies, the provincial government signalled to unions in letters released late Friday afternoon.
The unions received the letters in advance of bargaining for 2020 collective agreements. The letters are not formal notices of layoffs, but as required under the collective bargaining process, outline cuts the provincial government might make.
“The [Government of Alberta] will continue to guarantee employment security until March 30, 2020, for permanent bargaining unit employees using attrition, vacancy management and redeployment to meet employer needs,” states a Thursday letter to the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees from Alberta Public Service Commissioner Tim Grant.
But the letter continues that as of April 1 of next year, the government “will use all options available under the collective agreement to ensure government is on track to implement key priorities and support the government’s path to balance by 2020-23.”
Grant said several government cost-cutting initiatives could impact “approximately 2,500 positions” through to the end of the 2022-23 fiscal year.
The letter does not go into much detail about what those initiatives are, but several government ministries are specifically mentioned: Health, Service Alberta, Community and Social Services, Agriculture and Forestry, Seniors and Housing, and Transportation.
A Friday letter to the union from Dennis Holliday, the head of negotiations and labour relations for Alberta Health Services (AHS), details thousands more positions at the health authority that could be at risk.
In October’s provincial budget, the UCP increased health-care spending by $201 million to a total of $20.6 billion, a smaller increase than in previous years under the former NDP government. At the time, Finance Minister Travis Toews told reporters, “It’s hard to talk about fiscal responsibility without talking about health care.”
Holliday’s letter to AUPE said that, while the AHS budget has remained stable, “Alberta’s growing and aging population means we need to be more efficient and focused in terms of healthcare spending.
“This places increased demand on our healthcare services and it means we have to do things differently in order to provide safe, effective, and high-quality care for Albertans.”
Holliday said contracting out AHS housekeeper positions would affect between 1,000 and 2,000 full-time equivalent positions. Doing the same to remaining laundry and linen operations and retail food services would affect 235 and 165 positions, respectively.
“If further contracting out initiatives are to be considered in future, we will advise as required,” the letter states.
“AHS will continue to consider all options available to meet our organizational needs including changes to staff mix, service redesign, including changes and repurposing of sites, relocating services, reducing or ceasing the provision of services,” it says.
More potential cuts for nurses announced
On Friday, the United Association of Nurses learned that a further 750 front-line nurses could lose their jobs under a “massive downsizing” at AHS.
The nurses’ union said it learned of the planned cuts Friday morning after the lead negotiator for AHS, Raelene Fitz, called a meeting unexpectedly to inform the union that it plans to eliminate 500 full-time-equivalent (FTE) nursing positions over a three-year period beginning April 1, 2020.
Cutting 500 full-time-equivalent positions would mean layoffs for more than 750 front-line registered nurses because many nurses work part-time hours, the union said.
The plans were disclosed “in advance of bargaining for UNA’s 2020 provincial collective agreement so that the union would have time to absorb the information and respond accordingly,” the union said in a news release.
Decisions are still being made, but AHS was required to disclose the measures as part of the collective bargaining process, the health authority said in a statement.