Vol. 81/No. 7      February 20, 2017



Maggie Trowe, Editor

Health care workers locked out by Points West Living senior residence in Cold Lake, Alberta
Militant/Abdurahman Ali
Health care workers locked out by Points West Living senior residence in Cold Lake, Alberta, picket outside in fight for their first union contract and quality health care for seniors.

Locked-out health workers in
Alberta fight for care for seniors

COLD LAKE, Alberta — Some 40 members of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, locked out since Dec. 16, have been fighting for quality health care for seniors at the Points West Living center here.

The recent death of 85-year-old resident Olga Penner was from “pure neglect,” Lianne Dumais, one of the locked-out workers, told the Militant at a Feb. 3 solidarity rally at the company’s corporate office in Edmonton. Her condition deteriorated after the workers were locked out and the company brought in scabs.

When Katy LeRougetel, Communist League candidate for mayor of Calgary, and Abdurahman Ali, her co-worker at a warehouse in Calgary, visited the picket line Jan. 30, workers described conditions at the residence.

Health care aides said they spend much of their time both cleaning and cooking. “When I did my practicum in Edmonton, health care aides weren’t even allowed into the kitchen because of cross-contamination,” said Julie Grant. “Here, we cook for residents, too.”

Health care aides, nurses and other support staff — the overwhelming majority women — have been trying to negotiate a first contract with this privately owned facility since they unionized in March 2015.

“The unions make you really strong,” said nurse Kaitlyn Jubinville. “We’ve gotten to know each other on the picket line like we never did at work.”

The union is demanding adequate staffing and training. Only four or five workers are full time. The others are either part-time or temporary workers. Workers want transparent scheduling procedures and the replacement of absent staff.

Over 160 employees at four Points West Living facilities in Alberta are currently fighting for a contract.

Unionists employed at the Cold Lake military base, city employees and others have visited the picket line in solidarity. Community members drop off food and other refreshments and frequent honks from passersby show support.

— Michel Dugré

6 years after NZ mine blast
miners’ families win solidarity

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — A meeting here Jan. 25 discussed organizing ongoing actions in support of the families of the 29 miners killed in methane gas explosions in November 2010 at the Pike River Coal company, located on the West Coast of the South Island.

In response to company moves to seal the mine, family members began picketing the mine’s access road last Nov. 12. They’re demanding the bodies of their loved ones be recovered. It is believed that some miners were in the mines’ entrance tunnel when the explosion occurred. There may also be evidence that could be used to prosecute the mine’s owners and management.

A 2012 royal commission into the disaster found Pike River Coal guilty of numerous safety violations, including inadequate ventilation and failing to heed warnings from the miners.

“No one has been held to account,” Sonya Rockhouse, who lost her son in the explosion, told the meeting. “This is a huge injustice and if we don’t stand up for what is right, what is to stop them from doing it again.” She said she was overwhelmed with the support family members have received at the picket line. So far contractors have refused to seal the mine.

— Ruth Gray

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