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Commentary: Battle lines already drawn

Bad news for communities during pandemic

The recent wildcat health-care strikes across Alberta were a sign of the dissatisfaction many workers in the province have with the UCP government.

It is also a sign of where the government stands when it comes to opposition to its policies and programs during these unprecedented times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And while the strikes were relatedly small in scale, with little impact on patient health, they do perhaps signal the first steps on a road leading toward much greater disruptions, both in the health-care arena and in other parts of the public service too.

For its part, the UCP government reacted quickly to the job action, saying it will take against the participants and their supporters.

“Those involved in this illegal action will be held accountable,” said Minister of Finance Travis Toews. “The government’s primary concern is ensuring the health and wellbeing of patients, which has been put at risk.

“My expectation is that all unions respect the bargaining process, stop putting Albertans’ safety at risk and abide by the law. We will not tolerate illegal strike activity.”

On the other hand, organized labour groups, including health workers and educators, came out strongly in support of the job action.

The United Nurses of Alberta, for example, said, “UNA supports the health-care workers who are defending the principle of public health care and opposing the efforts of the Kenney government to undermine the public health system and destroy thousands of jobs.”

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees said public and private-sector workers are “being targetted” and are “under attack” by the Kenney government.

The deep and bitter divide that has grown up between the Kenney government and Alberta workers in many fields since the last provincial election in 2019 shows no sign of closing anytime soon.

If anything, as the wildcat strikes have shown, the sides are becoming more and more embittered – and that is nothing but bad news for the community-at-large going into the first winter of this deadly pandemic.

Dan Singleton is an editor with The Albertan.

Dan Singleton

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