Edmonton·Updated

AUPE blasts Kenney government for 'another attack on workers'

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees says it has been notified that up to 930 of its members' jobs "are on the line" due to cuts being considered by the provincial government.

Disclosure letter from province outlines 930 possible cuts to jobs in several departments

AUPE president Guy Smith is accusing the Alberta government of launching "another attack on workers" with its latest proposal about job cuts. (Sam Martin/CBC )

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees says it has been notified that up to 930 of its members' jobs "are on the line" due to cuts being considered by the provincial government.

The information released by AUPE came in a disclosure letter sent by the province as part of negotiations now underway for a new collective agreement with the government.

The union, which represents 90,000 workers, accused the UCP government of launching "another attack on workers" with another round of job cuts.

"Jason Kenney promised us jobs, but all he's brought is pain, with layoffs, abolishments, cutbacks, cuts to public services, and tax holidays for billionaires that hurt everyone," AUPE president Guy Smith said Wednesday in a statement.

"Kenney and his caviar conservatives need money for their corporate pals and they are going to make Albertans with disabilities, rural communities and Alberta workers pay for it. They just don't care who gets hurt."

The initiatives could impact up to 930 positions through to the end of the current 2020-21 fiscal  year, according to the letter sent to AUPE on Monday from Steve Stringfellow, executive negotiations strategist with the Provincial Bargaining Co-ordination Office.

"As always, we ask that discretion be exercised in the use and distribution of this information since plans and initiatives continue to be finalized," Stringfellow wrote in his letter, which was sent to media outlets by AUPE.

Changes to positions could include abolishments, ending termed employment, or redeployment to other roles, Stringfellow's letter said.

'Delivering efficient government'

Finance Minister Travis Toews said the possible cuts detailed in the letter have already been outlined the the most recent budget.

"This was all signalled in budget 2019-20," Toews said on Wednesday. "This is about delivering efficient government on behalf of Albertans.

"The vast majority of position reductions are, in fact, through attrition. That's been the first choice for the government at every turn. And in some cases it will result in a layoffs, but the first choice is always to manage our vacancies as we look at position reductions."

The letter outlines changes and cuts to several government departments.

Community and Social Services may see an impact of up to 536 positions by the end of the 2020-21 fiscal year, the letter said, though the changes would be "subject to the active consultation with AUPE regarding potential contracting out of direct operations."

A total of 32 positions will be abolished by closing the Alberta Job Corps, which has been suspended since March 2020 due to COVID-19. Eighteen people will be redeployed to other areas, one temporary position will end early to redeploy a permanent employee, and 13 positions will be abolished.

Another 63 positions will be affected by the closure of The McCullough Centre, a provincial facility in Gunn, Alta., about 65 kilometres northwest of Edmonton. The centre provides a six-month program for homeless men with addictions and/or mental health issues.

"Due to current staffing pressures, budget management strategies, and the anticipated future closure of the site, a pause on intake has been in place since August 26, 2019," the letter said.

The service delivery model for Alberta Supports is currently under review, the letter said, and changes instituted during the pandemic have identified "promising approaches to streamline services, share staffing resources throughout the province and ensure equal access to consistent levels of services."

The department is currently consulting with the AUPE on "alternate service delivery options" for the Edmonton and Calgary regions, including the potential of contracting out these services to a service provider, the letter said.  

"No decisions have been made on the outcome on this initiative to date," the letter said, but if the contracting out option is selected, 344 employees would be affected.

Agriculture and Forestry

Agriculture and Forestry plans to cut total of 247 bargaining unit positions as part of a "phased workforce transformation," the letter said. The department will try to ensure that impacts are minimized "through attrition wherever possible."

Those cuts will be made in two phases in 2020-21, the first in October 2020 and the second in the fourth quarter of this fiscal year.

In the agriculture division, about 135 positions will be abolished as the province transitions research "to a farmer-led delivery model," the letter said.

"Under this new model, agricultural research in  Alberta will lead to tangible benefits for farmers, including higher profits, a more abundant food supply at lower cost for consumers and ultimately a higher quality of life in rural communities."

In the trade and international relations division, 21 positions will be abolished to refocus "on activities that address sector growth and market access issues," the letter said. 

The Food Science and Technology Centre in Brooks, the Food Processing Development Centre in Leduc and agri-food laboratories for food microbiology, parasitology and support services will be reduced or eliminated, though most positions in the laboratories will remain. 

Thirteen positions will be eliminated in the strategy, planning and governance division and another 21 will be eliminated through "administrative and procedural efficiencies."

Infrastructure

The province may contract out facilities operations at the Royal Alberta Museum, which would affect 31 bargaining unit positions, including caretakers, electricians, maintenance workers, plumbers and power engineers.

The letter also outlines possible jobs changes in other departments, including:

  • Communications and Public Engagement, six jobs.
  • Justice and Solicitor General, 24 jobs.
  • Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women, three jobs.

"This is not what Albertans want," Smith said. "They will resist these attacks and AUPE members will be part of that fight."

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