Alberta’s NDP government is betraying workers, a union head said Thursday in the wake of layoffs at SAIT Polytechnic.
The following article appeared in the Calgary Herald by Bill Kaufmann.
The axing of 16 support staff at the Calgary post-secondary institution makes a mockery of the province’s vow not to disrupt important services for Albertans, said Guy Smith, president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE).
“The government has stepped up by saying aggressively how all front-line services will be protected,” he said.
“This flies in the face of the government’s vow to protect those front-line services.”
Smith said he believes the layoffs of those AUPE members affect tech instruction and information services, adding he fears more job cuts are coming as SAIT restructures some of its operations.
It’ll also hurt the quality of education just as more people are returning to school amid an improving economy.
And he said because collective bargaining had begun between SAIT and the AUPE this fall, the job cuts are a sign of bad faith, and the union will fight them by taking its case to the Alberta Labour Relations Board.
“Everyone has to provide disclosure on what their plans will be and we’re going to challenge the fact that there was no disclosure,” said Smith.
“We are hoping for a more flexible and creative approach to finding solutions at the bargaining table.”
It’s possible the layoffs could be overruled by the board, including through the use of an injunction, he said.
A spokeswoman for Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt said the government is “disappointed” in the layoffs and remains supportive of post-secondary schooling.
“As our economy continues to recover, our government remains committed to protecting front-line workers, and we’re very disappointed to hear these layoffs occurred,” said Samantha Power.
“As part of our government’s commitment to strengthening and protecting education in Alberta we have increased funding to every post-secondary institution’s base operating budget by two per cent every year since we were elected, and our review of post-secondary education will continue to deliver on that stability.”
A SAIT spokesman said 12 AUPE positions were eliminated in November in what was called a “small organizational restructure,” noting it was done in accordance with the terms of the collective agreement.
“These are always difficult decisions and SAIT is providing services to ensure the impacted employees have support during their transition,” said Chris Gerritsen. “SAIT and AUPE are scheduled to meet as part of ongoing collective bargaining and have committed to prioritize the discussion of position abolishment language during the renewal of the collective agreement.
“We will refrain from commenting further in public about our ongoing negotiations with AUPE.”