President’s Message: Kenney begins attack on public service, just as we feared

It didn’t take long for Jason Kenney to begin his attack on the public service and other working people, just as we had feared.

Within his first month of work, Kenney:

  • Lowered the minimum wage for workers under the age of 18, as though their work is somehow less valuable than those they work alongside.
  • Cancelled the new modern medical lab in Edmonton that was planned for by several previous governments, including former PC governments. At the same time, he cancelled the move to bring DynaLIFE workers into APL, which would have given them far greater flexibility, wage parity with other lab workers and access to a defined-benefit pension plan.
  • Gave away $4.5 billion in corporate taxes to Alberta’s most profitable companies and then suggested that we cannot afford our public servants.
  • Opened up our legal and fairly-signed contracts with our Employers and postponed the wage re-opener to which we agreed (Bill 9 – Public Sector Wage Arbitration Deferral Act). Then, he handed out earplugs to his members so that they wouldn’t have to listen to Opposition members who were explaining why what they are doing is so offensive.

Many of these issues do not impact HSAA members directly: None of our members are affected by the lowering of the minimum wage and the arbitration for our wage re-opener wasn’t scheduled until after September 30. But there are many from other unions like AUPE and UNA that have already been affected and we can be sure that we will experience the same treatment when our turn comes.

So, what are we going to do about it? What is HSAA doing?

Simply put, we are going to do whatever we can and we are going to do it together. Together, as HSAA. And together with other unions, other advocacy groups and social justice partners; and together with allies from across the country because all of Canada is watching and many of them are itching to help. They know that if Jason Kenney is successful here in Alberta, that their province is next. None of them are happy about that.

During the election, Kenney was fond of saying that the only things that mattered were jobs, the economy and pipelines and Albertans took him at his word. He promised us that no front-line jobs in the public service would be impacted and many believed him. Of course, he mentioned that lab workers weren’t actually front-line health-care workers because they don’t heal people, but we’ll just chalk that up to a guy who hadn’t yet learned his file (read: sarcasm).

But just as soon as he got the keys to the office, Kenney’s work focused on none of his top three priorities. Labs, Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) and breaking open contracts will do nothing to help any of those priorities. Jason Kenney was not elected to attack the rights of working people and it is up to us to remind him of that fact.

Leaders of the public service unions, along with those in civil society, are meeting regularly to decide our fight-back strategy. AUPE has already announced plans for information pickets to help the public understand what exactly is going on from the perspective of working people rather than the spin that Kenney and his folks are putting out there. We encourage HSAA members to take this opportunity to show our support of AUPE’s actions by joining them on their pickets on breaks and before and after shift. Here are some upcoming dates:

11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
For details, contact Local 043 Chair Judy Fader at

11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
For details, contact Local 043 Chair Judy Fader at

11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
For details, contact Local 043 Chair Judy Fader at

11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
For details, contact Local 043 Chair Judy Fader at

11:30 a.m.– 1:00 p.m.
For details, contact Local 095 Chair David Choy at

11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
For details, contact Local 052/010 Chair Teresa Bergen at or
Local 046/003 Vice-Chair Sharon Conium at 780-903-5133

Remember: these are information pickets as opposed to legal strike pickets. They are not intended to impede services, and the public, including HSAA members, are free to cross them to report to work.

More importantly, we need to think about ways that we can prepare for our own resistance to attacks on HSAA members. The first step is ensuring that you have an active Local Unit Executive that is talking about these issues as they arise. Ask for a meeting. If you don’t have an active Local Unit or do not know who your Chair or Co-Chair is, give Cam Heenan, Local Unit Advisor – North, or Erik Carlson, Local Unit Advisor – South, a call (1-844-280-4722) or email ( or

One thing each of us can do is email or phone our MLA directly to tell them how you feel about a government that would break your contract. Better yet, set up a meeting with them in person. You can find out their email address, phone and constituency office address here.

Back at the office, our team is mounting legal challenges, monitoring legislation and developing campaigns on our own and with our labour partners that we will roll out to you when they’re ready. We’re all going to have to be nimble with this as we won’t ever have a great deal of time to plan. It’s going to be a matter of finding out about an action and joining in with short notice whenever we are able. It’s going to take effort and it won’t be convenient. But we can stop them if we join together in pushing back. We’ve seen governments back down before and I’m confident we can make them do so again.

We’re open to hearing any and all ideas that you may have of ways to fight back. Please feel free to email them to