At the end of May HSAA had a historic convention, where for the first time in history Alberta government representatives accepted their invitation to attend en masse.
Not just the Premier or her Ministers but almost all of their caucus! But what is HSAA? Why is this historic? Why does the government even care?
HSAA is the Health Science Association of Alberta, and chances are you know a member. They are physiotherapists, respiratory therapists, lab technicians, paramedics and the list goes on... In their own words “Whether we’re working in the labs, in diagnostic imaging, in emergency medicine, in therapy, in addictions or any of the 240 professional disciplines to which we belong, we spend every day of our working lives caring for you.” Although primarily HSAA members are employed through Alberta Health Services, (an arm’s length corporation of the Alberta Government) they receive their funding directly from the Alberta Government.
We can never really know why previous Governments didn’t attend at this level. Perhaps they saw their role as the “employer” and didn’t want to have a dialogue with their employees. After all, historically they have used the livelihood of health care workers to balance their budgets and it’s a lot harder to fire someone if you know them and their family. The fact that the NDP government saw the value in interacting with their employees and ultimately constituents shows that not only do they don’t consider these workers to be frivolous and expendable, but that they ultimately value the crucial work that they do.
Now don’t get me wrong, they are still the employer and are duty bound to try to get the best services for the least amount of money for the people of Alberta. As a result, there will always be issues where we as working people feel they aren’t doing enough for us, but at least they are open to having a discussion and cultivating a mutually beneficial relationship. With the UCP running on a 1/5 cut to public services platform, chances are you know someone who will lose their job, and chances are they work in health care. If they get elected based on this mandate you won’t have to think too hard why you need to wait more than 15 mins for an ambulance to arrive or years for a diagnostic test.
Knowing this, HSAA felt obligated to protect not only the livelihood of their members but also the integrity of our public not for profit health care system. So they launched a campaign to educate the public and their members on the choice in front of them during the next provincial election. With union and corporate donations no longer possible in elections we need to mobilize our members in all unions across Alberta to not only donate to candidates who support public services, but get out and volunteer for them.
Their Health Matters campaign helps prepare HSAA for the reality of their newly won right to strike. The campaign shows that HSAA and their members are concerned enough with the state of healthcare that they would be willing to fight for it by going on strike if necessary. It is important to note that if they were forced to do this they would not be alone. Unions across the province, country and even the world would step up and aid them in their fight to protect our public not for profit health care system!
President Edmonton & District Labour Council