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Alberta health minister agrees to meet unions if ongoing labour talks off the table

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro says he’s now willing to meet with Alberta’s health-care unions — under certain conditions — after coming under fire for not doing so earlier.

'Glad handing in hallways does not get to the root of the problems in our system'

Health Minister Tyler Shandro rejected repeated requests for a meeting with Alberta's largest health-care union, the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) says. (Manuel Carrillos/CBC)

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro says he's now willing to meet with Alberta's health-care unions — under certain conditions — after coming under fire for not doing so earlier.

The unions were warned over a month ago that thousands of jobs could be eliminated over the next three years.

One union took to social media on Tuesday, publishing a letter to the minister saying he had refused to meet with them despite repeated requests.

A video posted by Shandro on Twitter on Tuesday shows him visiting a hospital and long-term care facility and talking with the people who work there.

But Mike Parker, head of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA), says that's not good enough.

"Glad handing in hallways does not get to the root of the problems in our system," he said.

Parker says the union has made three official requests to meet with the minister since the UCP came to power — with no luck.

"We have questions regarding service reductions across the province, privatization, for-profit health care that they've mused about. And yet today, as a representative of 27,000 health-care workers across the province, we have not had a meeting with the minister."

David Harrigan, director of labour relations for the United Nurses of Alberta, says they, too, have been rejected.

"It's really clear to us that this minister has no interest in meeting with anybody working in the health-care system," he said.

In an email to CBC News, a spokesperson for the health minister says he originally refused to meet because of ongoing collective bargaining.

But since the HSAA has clarified it will not attempt to discuss ongoing collective bargaining matters, he will meet with them and with any other health-care union under the same conditions.

With files from Jennifer Lee

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