Canadian Health Care Workers Find Common Ground

Health care workers in western Canada are all members of amalgamated locals, which brings a unique set of challenges. Health care is not typically the dominant sector in these locals, and there are not always opportunities for health care workers to connect as a group.

This is why meetings like the one that took place in Edmonton, Alberta, on March 1 and 2 are so important in helping health care units share information on common concerns.

“There is a lot of benefit to having members from different health care units talk to one another,” said Ray White, District 3 health care coordinator and president of Local 1-207. “It’s easy to feel that issues like staff shortages, inadequate training and unreasonable allotments for getting work done are unique to a workplace when in fact they’re endemic to the whole industry.”

Some 16 members from three locals in Alberta and British Columbia spent the two-day meeting networking, sharing experiences, and discussing potential actions around organizing and workplace hazards. 

First and foremost, the group found commonality in their reasons for working in the sector – a desire to provide nurturing and dignified care for fellow human beings.

They also discussed how employer policies like quotas and time frames can put unrealistic expectations on the workers, often leaving them in a position where they must choose between doing their job well or adhering to untenable rules.

Sarah Hoffman, Minister of Health for the Province of Alberta, spoke with the group and listened to their concerns.

The group learned about regulatory and legal requirements regarding workplace violence, hazards and safety, along with some practical tools to address these needs in specific workplaces. They also learned about the successes the union has had in lobbying for better workplace protections and charted a course for further strengthening their collective voice.

“Health care is a growing and vital sector of our union,” said White. “We want to keep the lines of communication open between health care units in our area so we can support and learn from one another.”

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