Letter – There are no magic wands!

RE: Editorial – the idiocy continues [Wednesday, Nov. 16 South Peace News]

People-power threatens politicians, so it’s no wonder Alberta’s top-dogs are trying to turn everyday Albertans against one another.

“The fight is not between workers and bosses – it’s between the public-sector and ‘real’ taxpaying Albertans,” they say. In Jeff Burgar’s Nov. 17 editorial, the writer even goes so far as to call our provincial government workers’ fight for improved wages “unbounded idiocy.”

Why? Because other working Albertans, oil, restaurant and hotel workers, as well as small business owners, were pushed out of shuttered workplaces and dropped off payrolls by the COVID crisis. Burgar’s takeaway? Alberta Union of Provincial Employees [AUPE] members shouldn’t be trying to improve their own working conditions, then.

There is no magic in his claim. After all, cutting social workers’ wages won’t get welders their jobs back, just as laying off LPNs won’t re-open restaurants and privatizing health-care services won’t save the average Albertan any money or pain.

Similarly, there’s no magic wand for creating jobs [on this Burgar, we can agree]. There is only worker solidarity, and our 90,000 members are using our collective power in every city and town where we live and work, including the 269 of us in High Prairie, to make Alberta a safe home for all, rather than a playground for the rich.

The worn-out idea that public-sector union members are not “real” Albertans is a hoax, and Premier Jason Kenney and his pals are milking it to spread the myth that public-sector workers drain taxpayers. Albertans aren’t fooled though – we know the real drain is the billionaires whom the Alberta Government gave a $5 billion handout to kill jobs and send our money into banks overseas.

If the UCP improved public-sector wages, more Albertans could afford to pay their bills. They could contribute to their local economy, support mom and pop shops and inject money into their communities. They could help create more jobs.

Leave it to Kenney to ignore the facts, though. Instead of investing in the front-line workers who kept Albertans safe and supported through the pandemic, delivering the essential services we all need, he’s trying to slash their wages. Don’t be surprised if private-sector bosses follow suit, telling their own employees to “take one for the team.”

Furthermore, the premier is also cutting our public-sector jobs – a point conservatives conveniently ignore. In the summer, the UCP slashed hundreds of post-secondary support positions. Then the government announced it was cutting close to 800 clinical staff in hospitals, not to mention outsourcing general support services.

As I write this, Kenney is making moves to abolish, layoff and redeploy 930 provincial government service workers and their positions.

In other words, AUPE members are in the biggest fight we’ve ever faced. But when we fight for our jobs, we’re not just fighting for ourselves; we’re fighting for all Albertans.

When hospital staff strike to stop privatization, they’re fighting to save you from out-of-pocket medical expenses.

When highway maintenance workers negotiate to improve wages and benefits, they’re fighting to raise the bar for all private-sector workers, so everyone can afford groceries and rent.

And when social workers or Legal Aid and Capital Region Housing employees demand better front-line resources, they’re fighting for everyday people – oil workers who lost their jobs, or your friends who lost their footing during the pandemic and got no support from the provincial government.

Public-sector workers are not shielded from Alberta’s economic downturns, the pandemic or the UCP-induced chaos. We are the shield, protecting our communities and standing in solidarity with all our neighbours to fight back for a better Alberta.

Kevin Barry,
AUPE,
Vice-President

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