Thursday, June 1, 2017

“They see the staff as part of their extended families and it really hurts our members when they say, ‘I don’t have time to spend with you, I have many more patients to look after. It’s really about the quality of care in an environment that should be very supportive of folks in there.

Very troubling that not only are advocates like Ruth Adria of the Elder Advocates of Alberta getting retribution with nothing done by the GOA but also workers at the continuing care facilities are also facing job termination as retribution.
It's curious why the GOA allows this junk. In the case of the retribution against citizen advocates all the GOA needs to do is enshrine resident rights (as well as patient rights in hospitals) with an additional step of amending the Trespass to Premises legislation to ensure an independent of AHS/Alberta Health appeal process. Currently there is only an internal to AHS appeal process which is designed to limit appeals and tie up any appeals that do happen (in my opinion). A public independent appeal process would do much to end the abuse of advocates by continuing care providers. Somehow #MediaAttention solves a lot of problems in Alberta.

With reference to the retribution against workers for dissenting in public about poor working conditions there needs to be protections in the labour code.
I'm curious if these terminations can be overturned by the government of Alberta which to date as merely enabled this sort of junk as noted here:

Alberta’s NDP ices labour in Cold Lake

Posted on October 5, 2016 in Alberta, AUPE, NDP
12191540_10153753600780970_3390333370454167286_nBy Bob Barnetson
Last week, workers represented by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) at the Points West Living (PWL) senior centre in Cold Lake were set to strike. The employer had also served lockout notice.
PWL is one of the most profitable and fastest growing seniors care providers in Alberta. PWL receives public funding to provide seniors’ care. Worker pay is poor so turnover is high. AUPE has a website with more info about PWL.
Bad working conditions are the (intended) outcome of Alberta’s private-care system, set up by the former Conservative government. As former AUPE organizer Trevor Zimmerman explains it:
…the PCs created a funding system that incentivizes employers to reduce wages by not tying adequate strings to funding handed over for care. They do have to hire staff, but are not required to pay them with 100% of the funds given. They can use surplus funds generated by underpaying staff for fancy renovations, executive bonuses, or pure profit. This means most private care workers – especially the non-union ones – are getting screwed by this system.
AUPE has a long-running campaign to organize workers in these facilities and improve wages and working conditions such that workers in private-sector operations are treated the same as workers in the public sector.
As the work stoppage approached, the government quietly appointed a Disputes Inquiry Board (DIB). A DIB is a process whereby pending work stoppages are placed in abeyance for a period of time and a mediator is appointed. If there is no settlement, there is a tedious process of recommendations and votes before a strike or lockout can commence. This DIB was requested by the employer
Basically a DIB is a delaying tactic—it puts off a work stoppage. Delay in a work stoppage typically benefits the employer more than the workers. It allows the employer additional time to procure scab labour, stockpile materials, target union supporters, and take other steps that minimize the effectiveness of the strike.
As Zimmerman points out, the Tories used to dress up a DIB by wringing their hands about “patient safety” and other bogey-men. This is obvious hokum. Strikes are not sudden events and employers have lots of time to prepare. PWL has a security firm at the ready and scabs being trained in Vegreville, so they are ready for a strike.
Indeed, if there was a serious safety threat, the government could use its powers under the Labour Relations Code to send the matter binding in arbitration (called a Public Emergency Tribunal). Interestingly, the NDP made no public announcement whatsoever about the DIB. Not surprisingly, AUPE was pissed off:
“The NDP government is allowing the employer to prepare scab labour, private security and put other provisions in place enabling the company to avoid dealing with this situation directly,” said AUPE vice-president Mike Dempsey. “The province has rescued the employer and left residents and the workers who care for them in limbo.”
There are also many NDP activists in the labour movement who are quite upset at what they view as a betrayal. Not everyone is jumping on the government. For example, the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) has been conspicuously quiet (at least in public) on the issue (AUPE is not part of the AFL).
The real question here is why did the government intervene, instead of letting the strike or lockout occur? A strike or lockout is how collective bargaining impasse is broken and restricting the right to strike (through senseless delay) runs contrary to the spirit (although probably not the strict interpretation) of the Supreme Court’s decision in Saskatchewan Federation of Labour v Saskatchewan.
The best theory I have heard is that the government has chosen one day of bad press (wherein some unionists complain about being betrayed in a complicated way and ambiguous circumstances) over a long-running story about seniors being held hostage by a strike (with the opposition pounding the NDP about doing nothing about it because they are all putatively buddy-buddy with labour).
I’ve heard other, more entertaining explanations, including that this is some kind of “false flag” event (wherein AUPE looks tough on PWL without having to strike and the NDP look tough on labour without having to really do anything). That sounds pretty improbable to me, but who knows?
The real question will be how this shakes out during the DIB process. If the parties don’t resolve the impasse, then the government gets the nasty strike headlines during the fall sitting pus it just pissed off a bunch of supporters. That said, whether either of those things really matters by the time the next election rolls around is a good question.
And that may be the real political calculus. It is not like labour has anywhere to go for the next election (except staying home) and the public’s memory about a strike is likely to be short. So avoiding the work stoppage on the chance that the DIB will resolve the matter (and, if not, at least it gives the government a “well, we tried” sound bite) may be the best play available to them.

This piece was first published on the website Labour & Employment in Alberta.
The NDP folks don't seem to have done anything to help the folks in the dispute.

The workers seem to have some validation for their issues in the report on this family:

Family of elderly woman wondering if level of care at Points West Living contributed to death.

Jesse Cole / Cold Lake Sun.
Friday, February 17, 2017 2:21:57 MST PM

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POINTS WEST LIVING – The family of an elderly woman who died earlier this month after being removed from care at the Points West Living community is alleging that inadequate care contributed to the woman’s death.
Olga Penner, an 85-year-old sufferer of Alzheimer’s disease, died earlier this month in Cold Lake hospital just days after her family removed her from assisted living care at Points West Living where she had been a resident since November of 2016. Penner was taken via ambulance to hospital after her family says they became fed up with what the treatment she was receiving. In the days since Penner’s death, both Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Points West Living have opened investigations into Penner’s care and death.
Penner’s family say they moved her to assisted living community in late 2016 and said the care she received initially was up to snuff.
“The staff was great with her,” said Penner’s daughter-in-law, Diana Penner. “Olga could walk around, eat, drink and was doing very well independently there. Although her memory was very short-term, we visited her up to four times a week and she was in good spirit and health.”
Diana says that changed in the weeks after Points West Living issued a lockout of staff after ongoing labour dispute negotiations broke down between Points West Living and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employee’s (AUPE) staff members.
Diana told the Sun that under  third-party replacement workers, she felt that the care her mother-in-law received dropped dramatically. Diana alleges that Penner was not properly fed, endured untreated bedsores and that her hygiene was ignored. Diana says her mother-in-law ceased eating and became uncooperative with staff, adding that staff would regularly ask her for help in changing, feeding and otherwise caring for Penner.
“Since the strike, [replacement staff] would call me at home or catch me when I was visiting to help give her a bath, help her change, or to see if she will [sic] eat… Quite a few times I came in to help them and then I said ‘enough.’  I wanted to come and see her and visit her – not be doing the job of the staff and I told the head nurse at the time,” Diana said.
The family also alleges to have visited on numerous occasions to find Penner in soiled and dirty clothing as well as once finding their family member asleep on the floor, rather than in her bed.
Since removing Penner and her subsequent death, investigations have been opened into the alleged mistreatment by both the AHS and Points West Living. AHS issued a statement on the incident saying,
“Our hearts go out to this patient’s family and loved ones, and our thoughts are with them during this difficult time. We’ve reached out to the family to express our condolences and continue to be available to them to answer any questions or concerns they may have…  Alberta Health Services has initiated a Quality Assurance Review to determine details of the care provided to this patient.”
Timothy Wilson, a press secretary with the Government of Alberta, stated that other measures have also been taken including a “head-to-toe” physical assessment by an AHS team of registered nurses and a care manager as well as having an AHS registered nurse case manager on site at Points West Living every day.
“...AHS will act on any recommendations from the internal review that could help improve care in the future, and expects the facility to do the same. We will continue to work closely with Points West Living to ensure timely, effective care is provided, uninterrupted, despite the ongoing labour dispute.”
Points West Living also commented on the incident with CEO Doug Mills saying,
“The health and safety of residents is the foremost priority of Points West Living.  An internal investigation has been launched by our management team to review the brief time the resident spent at Points West Living Cold Lake.  Points West Living has welcomed an external investigation by Alberta Health Services and is cooperating fully with AHS.”
Mills also added that, prior to Penner’s removal by her family, Points West Living management  had scheduled a meeting with the family to discuss the deterioration of Penner’s health.
Julie Ali
Associated with the labour dispute and the recent firings of staff is this case where family is asking if the level of care at this facility was a factor in the demise of a family member.
POINTS WEST LIVING – The family of an elderly…
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Julie Ali
Just now
Retribution in the form of termination is not the answer to a dispute in the continuing care system. While advocates like Ruth Adria are fully experienced in retribution in the form of banning and lawsuits I am surprised to see the retribution extend to the unionized workers of this company. It may be that this company wants to end the media exposure by terminating the workers who were publicly dissenting about working conditions at this facility. What is clear to me at least is that the government of Alberta might be able to ignore the retribution acts in the continuing care system when they involve ordinary citizens like Ruth Adria but I doubt that the GOA is going to get away with ignoring the retribution acts against unionized workers. Just a feeling on my part.
In any case, if the GOA does ignore this mess, the citizens of Cold Lake can dissent just like the ones at Sundre to get #MediaAttention which solves all problems in Alberta.

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Julie Ali
3 mins

It is troubling that a continuing care provider can fire the staff at a facility in one go like this.
I wonder why this company did this. Doesn't the company understand that taxpayers are paying for the company profits and when we see behaviour like this we question the reason we are investing public funds in private companies?

A company that operates long-term care homes for seniors in northeastern Alberta says it's firing current nursing care employees and going with a private contractor…

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May 29, 2017 8:40 pm
Updated: May 29, 2017 11:32 pm

Workers at an Alberta seniors home to be fired; AUPE files complaint

By Staff The Canadian Press
Alberta Union of Provincial Employees.
Alberta Union of Provincial Employees.
File/Global News
- A A +
A company that operates long-term care homes for seniors in northeastern Alberta says it’s firing current nursing care employees and going with a private contractor rather than trying to bargain a first contract with them.
Points West Living sent a letter last week to the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees notifying them of their plan for their facility in Cold Lake.
The Ontario-based company locked out 30 workers on Dec. 16, and the workers in Cold Lake joined AUPE in March 2015 and were trying to get their first collective agreement with the company.
AUPE president Guy Smith says the union filed a complaint with the Alberta Labour Relations Board and applied for a cease-and-desist order to try to stop the cuts of licensed practical nurses and health aides.
He says Points West Living sent its letter about the terminations the day after the Alberta government introduced Bill 17, the Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act, in the legislature.
He says the bill has provisions to settle first collective agreements in newly unionized sites.
Smith says workers were trying to address staff shortages, as well as get training and fair scheduling in their first contract. He says residents in the home are not getting the services they deserve.
“They see the staff as part of their extended families and it really hurts our members when they say, ‘I don’t have time to spend with you, I have many more patients to look after. It’s really about the quality of care in an environment that should be very supportive of folks in there.
What’s happening at the Cold Lake long-term care home is something that should concern all of us, Smith said.
“Members of the public have loved ones in these facilities, and they should care when they place one of their loved ones in these facilities that they get the level of care they deserve and that’s not happening. It’s something we should all care about especially as we all age and we ourselves could end up in some of these facilities.”

No one at Points West Living could be reached for comment. It also operates long-term care homes in Grande Prairie, Lloydminster, Vegreville, Wainwright, Stettler, Peace River, Red Deer and Slave Lake.

Julie Ali · 

It is troubling that this private continuing care provider can simply fire a group of employees at one site while providing a contract for workers at another site. Why were the Cold Lake workers treated differently than the workers at Points West Living’s Heritage House in Vegreville? According to the union both sets of workers were asking for similar contract items. Could it be as AUPE suggests that the termination of these employees is retribution for the high profile extended nature of this contract dispute?

“Instead of negotiating respectfully, Points West Living is punishing its Cold Lake workers for the strong stand they have taken, and for their outspoken advocacy to address the root problems of Alberta’s senior-care system,” said Smith.

if this is indeed an act of retribution for the public dissent of the workers surely then this is an anti-democratic act by the company? Or can continuing care providers do whatever they want to do in Alberta because the government of Alberta has provided them with a relaxed business environment that allows them to generate profits and / or collect assets in the form of ASLI grants that enables organizations to be subsidized for real estate holdings with the use of public grants?

I am curious how the public benefits from this sort of set up of the continuing care system. We provide half the costs to build the facilities. We provide health care cash for residents who are really patients. We provide AISH money if the facility is taking care of handicapped citizens so we're also paying accommodation fees. We pay for the renovation of such facilities. We practically pay for some of these companies entire budget and yet when I ask the GOA for the amount of money going to residents I am told this is a proprietary matter and cannot be disclosed.

So let me get this straight. All our public dollars go to continuing care businesses in the for profit and not for profit private and public sector--and we're told we can't find out how much money is being used to service our family members or how much goes to staffing to determine staff:resident ratios? Very poor set up. It lacks accountability and transparency and if these workers are being terminated for revealing the poor set up in terms of working conditions then there is a punitive aspect to this system that advocates and families are fully aware of.

If the Cold Lake workers were fired for making public problems at this facility that even another family has raised concerns about --then the GOA needs to deal with the issue of retribution--not only for workers at these facilities but for advocates like Ruth Adria who has been banned and sued for her advocacy of seniors. Here is the article where a family raises care concerns:

Diana told the Sun that under third-party replacement workers, she felt that the care her mother-in-law received dropped dramatically. Diana alleges that Penner was not properly fed, endured untreated bedsores and that her hygiene was ignored. Diana says her mother-in-law ceased eating and became uncooperative with staff, adding that staff would regularly ask her for help in changing, feeding and otherwise caring for Penner.

Since removing Penner and her subsequent death, investigations have been opened into the alleged mistreatment by both the AHS and Points West Living.
LikeReply11 mins
Ian Murphy
This isn't a strike. Those workers were locked out. That's completely opposite from a strike. The company kicked them out.
LikeReply2May 30, 2017 12:47pm
Greg T Sierko
Shameful care before profits
LikeReply1May 30, 2017 12:39pm
Val Erickson · 

Points West needs to reevaluate their Edon Care philosophy. The level of care needed for residents dose not match the philosophy so there is a large gap in care. As with many corporations, CEOs of Points West have no clue what is really happening at ground level.
LikeReply1May 30, 2017 10:29am
James Macdonald · 

Every Albertan should have there eye's on this as one day we will all be old. I for one don't want someone making minimum wage taking care of me or my family members
UnlikeReply8May 30, 2017 8:58am
Lois Frehlich Camacho · 

Exactly great point James, please remember it's not all about money. Unions insist that the employees have safety, have a living wage and are there to protect the workers. When you don't have a union no one has the workers backs.
It's a fact that unionized employees work better because they know there union is there to keep an eye on bad companies and bosses that would ask and expect the employees to do the ridiculous unsafe things that oH&S would never condone .
Really if there are people who are taking advantage of sick benefits there are ways to deal with that, but often the sick issue is a simple conversation and can be corrected.
But there are also great stressors that come with this kind of work, with low wages to do some of the very difficult jobs. We need to remember we very probably will end up there. Do you honestly feel to have someone wipe your butt that does it with tact respect and proper training is not worth a living wage ... seriously 😒
I am so tired of people automatically accusing unionized workers of the worst.
Honestly if you could realize that most of us come to some difficulties in our lives and without a union you can be fired, really does anyone want that.
LikeReply1May 30, 2017 4:22pm
Natasha Khan
I would do my job as a HCA for any money. Because I love the work I do. That being said I am told this is not about money.
LikeReply1May 30, 2017 5:40pm
Jessica P · 

No matter what happens, it seems like its the elderly people that need care who are losing.
UnlikeReply12May 30, 2017 6:50am
Sage Seib · 

I worked in both for many years and I know for a fact that the residents get much better, professional care in the unionized gov,t owned. Enters than the for profit ones. They had more baths and better personal care , as well as much better meals.
LikeReply5May 30, 2017 2:20am
Terry Ted · 

Can't blame the owner when it's common knowledge any union held health facility suffers staff shortages pretty much every weekend as staff calling in sick and have little to no recourse
LikeReply3May 29, 2017 11:03pm
Joyann Bugden
When it's coming out of private pockets for private care, someone should be blamed.
LikeReplyMay 30, 2017 12:53am
Felicity Bauman
The one in Stettler was like that before Union came in.
LikeReplyMay 30, 2017 6:54am
Toni Bacchitta
Then it's the fault of the employer, not the Union. I belong to a Union and respect my employer and enjoy my work enough to not pull stunts like that. Belonging to a Union does NOT make you invincible...but it DOES protect your rights. Don't blame the Union on a spineless, shady employer and bad employees.
LikeReply1May 30, 2017 6:19pm
Toni Bacchitta
AND......I'm sure the Nurses in our province loved that comment....considering they're Unionized.
LikeReply1May 30, 2017 6:22pm
Leticia Gaboury Graham · 

I have been informed that the workers who were petitioning were also having a negative impact on the temps who had to fill in, giving them mental health issues from their constant harrasment. They went to extreme lengths and jeprodized the future of people who also care for the residents in the facility. I have heard of how disruptive they were and how that posed harm to elderly residents with cases like dementia and Alzheimer's. This case has two sides.
LikeReply6May 29, 2017 10:48pm
Tasha Hurtubise · 

There is always two sides sometimes even 3 or 4. Point I'm making is go see for yourself.
LikeReplyMay 30, 2017 12:35am
Joyann Bugden
Some of the etiquette displayed is absolutely disruptive and unprofessional but they were positively ignored while fighting for basic human rights for seniors before "temp workers" took over. This company is only concerned about the money they are making from our seniors... not about the care our seniors are getting and paying for.
LikeReply4May 30, 2017 12:59am
Kristan Noel Myers · 

I have personally witnessed some of the unprofessional picketing and it is pretty disgusting behaviour. I support the unions role in this situation but I also see how it impacts the residents inside. They can hear the accusations being hurled at the temporary workers (such as accusing temp workers of being murderers) and it is very detrimental to the residents mental health. I'm disappointed it has come to this but I hope whatever the outcome, it leads to better conditions for the residents and puts an end to all the anguish being caused.
LikeReply1May 30, 2017 1:23am
Allie Simons · 

The petitioners also would flash strobe lights into the vehicle that transports the temp workers, making people with epilepsy or neurological conditions put themselves at risk to go care for the residents.
LikeReply1May 30, 2017 3:46am
Beth Mulligan · 

Wow. That's not acceptable. I would fire them too
LikeReply1May 30, 2017 6:44am
Tasha Hurtubise · 

It's a condition of a striker. Do you really think getting their jobs taken from them doesn't worn a bit of anger????
LikeReply1May 30, 2017 8:41am
Allie Simons · 

Anger is fine. Intentionally causing harm to another human being (and yes they've been warned about it) isn't acceptable.
LikeReply2May 30, 2017 10:20am
Toni Bacchitta
Allie Simons uhhh......are you trying to tell us that people who cannot be trusted to drive safely (clear medicals) are transporting the clients? Jeez.... think that might be violating a law or two.
LikeReplyMay 30, 2017 12:27pm
Toni Bacchitta
Allie Simons "intentionally causing harm isn't acceptable " it's ok for the employer to cause harm to the employees....but not for the employees to fight for their rights? Perhaps you need to really sit and THINK before you post anything else.
LikeReply2May 30, 2017 12:30pm
Kristan Noel Myers · 

Toni Bacchitta - the temp workers have to be escorted in and off the property by security and are transported by a cargo van. It's very difficult to listen to the abuse these temporary workers have taken and hard to reconcile this type of behaviour with the strikers who advocate for loving care for the residents. I personally will do whatever it takes to put food on my table for my children - I don't need to be abused before or after my shift at work, so why should these temporary workers who are just trying to do the same. And those advocating for change certainly could have garnished stronger support with a little more professionalism and compassion. Either way, I'm glad this will be settled and the residents won't have to be subjected to this ugly war anymore.
LikeReplyMay 30, 2017 5:54pm
Toni Bacchitta
Kristan Noel Myers they're being treated that way because they're supporting a lousy employer and completely ignoring the changes these Union members and the Union are trying to force the employer to comply with-you're telling me you'd take a crap job with long hours, crappy pay, rotten employers, little to no benefits, and little protection for your rights? I doubt it. By crossing picket lines, the message is being sent that it's ok to treat people like garbage, as
long as they get SOME FORM of compensation. Don't blame the Union members for what the residents are putting up with.... if the employer cared about their staff and their needs, it wouldn't come to this. Blame a greedy employer who thinks people are expendable and replaceable.....which speaks to the level of care the employer is prepared to provide the residents. Think about THAT.
LikeReplyMay 30, 2017 6:34pm
Peter Sommers
Compare the wages and benefits paid by privately owned companies, to those of AUPE employees, and tell me who you think will take the best care of your parents in their golden years, especially if they have limited funds?
Joyann Bugden
This private care company actually pays less... maybe that's why they need extra training.
LikeReplyMay 30, 2017 12:54am
Natasha Khan
That's what private companies do and that why I NEVER would work for a private facility.
LikeReplyMay 30, 2017 5:41pm
Peter Sommers
Joyann Bugden - Yes, I know the private company pays less. What they pay is readily available if you Google it. The Alberta Government has continually said and acted to protect health care jobs, so let's see what they do in this situation. They won't save any money by allowing the replacement of unionized workers, because AHS pays the private company for the work the private employees would be performing, PLUS the private company's markup to make a profit on each employee is charged back to AHS, PLUS the charges for the mangement services provided by the private company. AHS is the comany's primary source of revenue, according to the company's prospectus. Privitization, in this instance, has few positives, if any, in my opinion.
LikeReply21 hrs
Julie Ali · 

Peter Sommers These compensation and work issues are not restricted to the private sector continuing care companies alone. Some private sector companies seem to do fine with AHS staff on site. Some facilities in the public sector are doing poorly such as the Lacombe long term care facility which is run by AHS where staff were put on administrative leave. Labour problems are everywhere in both the private and public sector and seem to indicate to me a lack of coherence in the delivery of continuing care services in Alberta.

It's all fragmented, lacking uniform adherance to the standards of care and there appears to be a deficiency in staff training and staff:resident ratios. There needs to be proper auditing oversight by the GOA with penalties for non-compliances; staff need to be trained for the sometimes complex care cases they will encounter; staff:resident ratios are a problem and there appears to be fewer staff on weekends.

Privatization isn't always the problem. Original contract making may be part of the problem. It can just be that the government has long term contracts that cannot be changed or there may be other issues like no other way to house the increasing numbers of citizens requiring care because the government failed to do it's job in the area of infrastructure.
LikeReplyJust now

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