Seniors home staff slam pay, benefit cuts
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.