Calgary Herald

Seniors home staff slam pay, benefit cuts

- ALIA DHARSSI

Staff at Clifton Manor, a Calgary seniors home, held a rally on Monday to highlight their concerns about the bargaining process for a collective agreement with their employer that has been dragging on for over a year.

The workers are in a standoff with the Brenda Strafford Foundation, a non-profit that runs Clifton Manor, over proposed cutbacks to overtime pay, starting wages for new employees and their benefits package, among other issues.

But Brenda Hannah, administra­tor of Clifton Manor, said the management is committed to moving toward a negotiated settlement.

“We very much value our employees,” she said.

During the rally, about 40 Clifton Manor employees, alongside roughly 20 supporters including AUPE members from other nursing homes, chanted against what they described as a “rollback” and raised their concerns about the rising cost of living in the face of their employer’s proposal to hold wages constant through to 2017-18.

“This is a foundation that has the money to pay these workers, but they’re rolling them back and wanting cutbacks off of the backs of the workers,” said Karen Weiers, vice-president of the Alberta Union for Provincial Employees, which represents the workers.

The non-profit foundation proposes to reduce overtime pay, reduce the amount paid by the employer towards the cost of employee benefits premiums, and drop the starting wage rate for various positions, including health care aides and nursing aides, because of concerns about the uncertaint­y of funding from Alberta Health Services, even as it is “wellfinanc­ed and maintains significan­t cash reserves and assets,” said an informatio­n sheet handed out by AUPE members during the rally.

But an informatio­n update letter to residents of Clifton Manor and their families from the management said that the “wages and benefits are very competitiv­e with other providers of long term care service and we are in a very unknown funding environmen­t.”

“It is important for all residents and families to know that we value our excellent staff and are committed to reach an agreement that attracts and retains staff while accounting for current economic realities,” the letter said.

“We have a positive relationsh­ip with AHS, a transparen­t and open relationsh­ip with AHS, and we wouldn’t presume to comment on AHS funding,” said Hannah.

She declined to comment on the bargaining process in detail because of confidenti­ality issues, but noted that any adjustment­s to starting wage rates would affect new employees, not current ones, and that current employees who are promoted will move along the current wage grid.

For Sandra Azocar, executive director of Friends of Medicare, a non-profit, the standoff is connected to broader problems related to the transparen­cy of funding provided by Alberta Health Services to private seniors’ care providers.

“Where’s that money going? It’s obvious to us that it’s not definitely going to the quality of care when you have underpaid workers,” she said. “... These companies don’t have to open up their books and they don’t have to be accountabl­e to taxpayers.”

The Alberta Ministry of Health declined to comment, but Hannah said that Clifton Manner provides quarterly reports to AHS that fulfil its reporting requiremen­ts.

“We are fully compliant with the expectatio­ns of Alberta Health Services,” she said.

 ?? ALIA DHARSSI ?? Staff of Clifton Manor, a seniors home run by the Brenda Strafford Foundation, and their supporters rally Monday to protest proposed rollbacks to overtime pay, starting wages and benefits, as well as a proposed salary freeze, in a bargaining process...
ALIA DHARSSI Staff of Clifton Manor, a seniors home run by the Brenda Strafford Foundation, and their supporters rally Monday to protest proposed rollbacks to overtime pay, starting wages and benefits, as well as a proposed salary freeze, in a bargaining process...

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