UCP plan to cut health care compensation while adding jobs amounts to a ‘tax’ on front-line heroes, UNA president says

The United Conservative Party’s 2021 plan to drastically cut the budget for public health care workers’ compensation while adding thousands of new health care jobs amounts to a “tax” on Alberta’s front-line heroes, says United Nurses of Alberta President Heather Smith.

The 2021 Budget tabled in the Legislature today by Finance Minister Travis Toews will cut about $1.2 billion over two years from compensation for public health care workers. At the same time budget documents indicate the government plans to increase the number of jobs in the sector by 2,940.

“While we haven’t yet seen the details of how this government intends to implement these changes, there’s only one way that it can happen with this plan, and that’s by drastically cutting the pay of the very front-line workers Mr. Toews was thanking today for their brave work in the COVID-19 pandemic,” Smith said.

“It’s pretty obvious that for the UCP, health care workers are heroes one minute and zeros the next,” she said. “They’re basically asking health care workers to pay to hire more health care workers so they can keep low taxes for corporations and wealthy Albertans.”

“This amounts to a special tax on Alberta’s front-line heroes.”

Smith said that so far no one knows what jobs the 2,940 new workers referenced in the budget documents will be hired to fill, or who those workers will be.

Toews also told the Legislature that significant job cuts are coming in other parts of the Alberta public sector, including jobs in post-secondary education and the public service. 

In his speech, the minister also outlined plans for privatized surgical and diagnostic imaging services that while described as a way to get health care “back on track” will have the long-term effect of making the public health care system less efficient, less fair and no less expensive, Smith said.

“The language is softer than we have heard in the past,” she said. “There’s no more mention of the ‘fiscal reckoning’ the government used to talk about, but the fiscal reckoning is obviously coming just the same. 

Smith noted that United Nurses of Alberta and others impacted by the budget have only had a short time to examine the numbers and determine what they mean. UNA will be studying the budget in more detail in the next few days and will update members on the likely impact of the government’s plans.