Striking workers at Alberta retirement facility ordered back to work

Binding arbitration ordered as quality of care deteriorates
||Last Updated: 08/15/2012

After 70 days on the picket line, workers at the Revera Riverbend Retirement Residence in Edmonton are heading back to work.

The Alberta government ordered the workers to return to their jobs after referring the dispute between the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) and Revera Inc. to binding arbitration, upon discovering the quality of care of the facility’s residents was deteriorating.

About 80 nurses, health-care workers and support staff walked off the job on June 5, seeking better wages and benefits. Alberta Human Services Minister Dave Hancock submitted the dispute to a public emergency tribunal after daily inspections of the facility were ordered and recommendations came in from Health Minister Fred Horne. Replacement care workers were brought in for the duration of the strike.

Alberta Health Services began inspecting the residence daily since the strike began, and found that the level of care for the facility’s 120 residents was declining in the form of missing information on medical charts, medication being administered incorrectly, and cleanliness issues, according to health officials.

The end to the strike comes after the union expressed concerns over the death of one of Revera’s residents. Margaret Green passed away on August 4, after her requests for an ambulance were allegedly ignored. Friends of hers say she complained of a sore throat and mini strokes. The province insists the strike had no connection to her death.

The workers are happy to return to work and care for the seniors, says AUPE president Guy Smith.

“This has been the longest picket line in AUPE’s history – 70 days. Our members stayed strong throughout it, but always were ready to go back to their jobs, caring for the seniors,” he said in a press release.

The AUPE and Revera have 21 days to reach an agreement on their own, with the aid of a government-appointed mediator. If an agreement can’t be reached, the public emergency tribunal will conduct a full inquiry and force a binding settlement.

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