April 23, 2024 April 23, 2024

Provincial budget doesn’t invest enough in public service: AUPE

Posted on 4 March 2024 by Ryan Dahlman

By Al Beeber 

Alberta Newspaper Group

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees is not impressed with the provincial budget unveiled Thursday.

The union says the budget makes life worse for Albertans and the public services in the province.

More than 82,000 AUPE members will enter collective bargaining in 2024, the majority of whom work for the provincial government and Alberta Health Services, says the AUPE, which notes workers plan to fight for better working conditions.

Guy Smith, AUPE president, said Thursday in a phone interview that the strength of the union’s 100,000 members will be at the bargaining table.

“It’s yet another budget in a long line of budgets that just does not put the proper investments into the public services that Albertans need.

“We’ve been talking about staffing priorities in health care, in government services, in post-secondary now for years and it’s unfortunate that the government does not want to invest in these services because they are absolutely fundamental to keeping this province strong,” said Smith.

The expected surplus, based on what Smith calls austerity imposed on the public service in recent years, “has really damaged the public service and it is time to reinvest and that’s what surpluses should be used for,” added the AUPE president.

Negotiations will be held at numerous bargaining tables across the public sector with employees  “angry, frustrated, they feel disrespected by their employers. We’re going to the table with significant demands to increase wages, increase staffing levels, improve working conditions and it’s all because our members are dedicated to the work they do for Albertans and they just feel they’re under so much strain they can’t provide the professionalism that they would want to do.

“So it’s going to come to a head at the bargaining table,” added Smith.

And while the union is hopeful to get negotiated agreements, it’s spending a lot of time with members preparing them if they need “to stand up and take action which they may ultimately have to do,” he added.

The union represents workers providing direct government services in all  departments. It represents nursing care workers, general support services in AHS and in multiple other large and small healthcare operators and providers. It also represents support staff at post-secondary institutions including Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge.

“This government is so entrenched in its ideology it would be impossible to knock them off their path as far as the budget goes, but the place that we do have strength  where we do have the ability to meet the needs of workers is at the bargaining table and that’s where we’re putting all of our energy,” he added.

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