The Alberta government has ended a strike at an Edmonton retirement centre one day after CBC first reported that an elderly resident died after replacement workers allegedly ignored her requests to call an ambulance.
The dispute at Rivera Riverbend Retirement Living has declared a public emergency and referred the dispute to binding arbitration, the province announced in a news release on Tuesday.
Workers have been on strike since June 5. They will likely return to work on Thursday.
Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk said the province decided to intervene after an inspection on Aug. 8th found deterioration in the quality of care, particularly in charting and medication, which he attributed to a high turnover of replacement workers.
The strike wasn't ended until Tuesday because the province needed to follow a legal process under the labour code.
"This is the earliest that we ... could have done so," Lukaszuk said.
Lukaszuk said the woman's death was not the reason the province decided to step in.
"A review of quality of care to that particular patient has been done and we are satisfied that this strike had no impact on this particular client," he said.
However, the NDP says the government was too slow to respond to the problem with replacement workers and that assuming the strike had no impact on the woman who died is not yet appropriate.
"The deputy premier's suggestion that there was no connection between the fatality and the fact replacement workers were in there pre-determines an investigation that is underway, so that is grossly inappropriate," said Deputy leader Rachel Notley.
Union filed complaint
The declaration ends the strike and sends the matter to a public emergency tribunal which has the authority to impose a solution on both parties.
The union and Revera Inc. have 21 days to reach an agreement with the help of a mediator appointed by the province. If no deal can be reached, the tribunal will impose a settlement.
David Jones has already been selected by the government to be the arbitrator.
The resident's death prompted the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) to file a complaint with the province.
AUPE represents about 80 striking licensed practical nurses, health care aides and support staff at the seniors residence in southwest Edmonton.