Move to privatize hospital services, cut health-care jobs ‘political’: union

  • Edmonton Journal
  • 13 Jan 2022
  • LAURA BEAMISH With files from Vincent Mcdermott

Alberta Health Services (AHS) is laying off 334 laundry workers at hospitals across Alberta and replacing them with a privatized service.

The Alberta Union of Public Employees (AUPE) says the layoffs are part of a plan to cut or privatize 11,000 health-care jobs. This includes jobs in nutrition and food services, environmental services, lab services, supply-chain and procurement, and long-term care.

“It’s really impacting the smaller rural communities within Alberta where right now people do struggle to maintain a well paying job that has benefits and stuff like that that go along with it,” said AUPE vice-president Darren Graham. “A lot of these communities where this has already happened, they’re posting jobs, but they’re posting them as purely casual positions.”

AUPE says layoff notices at Fort Mcmurray’s Northern Lights Regional Health Centre were given to 10 full-time employees on Tuesday. Laundry staff have already been cut at health centres and hospitals in Red Deer, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Ponoka and Calgary.

Moving laundry services away from AHS and to K-bro Linen Systems began this past September. Health-care workers protested the planned cuts or privatization in October 2020.

AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson said to continue running the service would require more than $38 million in upgrades across Alberta. More than $100 million would be needed to build new modern linen systems, he said.

“The contracted service model will address maintenance costs and enable a sustained, high-quality service, while eliminating the significant risk that our current outdated linen infrastructure poses,” said Williamson.

Graham rejected arguments that the switch will save money. He said it is risky if rural areas have to rely on sending laundry to other communities, especially in the winter.

“This is purely a political decision, not a health-care decision. The UCP government wants to hand over more assets to its corporate friends,” Graham said in a statement. “This is also an assault on Alberta’s rural communities, where good jobs are hard to find.”

Steve Buick, spokesperson for Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping, said privatizing certain tasks within the health-care system is not new.

“AHS is contracting more hospital laundry services from the same independent partner that has done 70 per cent of all their laundry services for many years, including under the NDP government,” he said.

“We have great respect for everyone working in our health system, but our ability to protect Albertans from Omicron does not depend on the percentage of laundry services done by private-sector workers as opposed to public-sector ones.”


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