Alberta unions, including the University of Alberta’s Non-Academic Staff Association (NASA), have banded together to fight against provincial cuts through the Stand Up to Kenney Campaign.
At a press conference on October 28, The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) announced their Stand Up to Kenney campaign, which aims to fight against the decisions of current Alberta premier and leader of the United Conservative Party (UCP) Jason Kenney. AFL, the largest voluntary association of unions in Alberta, was joined by the U of A’s NASA, the United Nurses of Alberta, the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA), and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
According to AFL president Gil McGowan, the Stand Up to Kenney Campaign is the result of a cumulation of attacks on various sectors such as health care, education, and the environment.
“We’ve come to the conclusion that we have no other choice but to fight Jason Kenney, and we’re asking all Albertan’s to join us,” McGowan said.
“The premier wants to frame the opposition of his government as a battle between the UCP and the so-called union bosses and union NDP surrogates,” he continued. “The truth is the UCP has picked fights with an unprecedented number of Alberta groups and individual Albertans regardless of their political stripe.”
Citing the healthcare wildcat strikes that took place across the province on October 26, McGowan believes with the same spirit but more support from other unions, similar strikes and protests can have serious impacts.
“The healthcare workers who walked off the job on Monday showed us what’s possible — they showed us that citizens working together can stand up, speak out and push back,” he said. “But the end of the Wildcat also showed us that isolated groups of workers can’t do it alone.”
University becoming “shadow” of past self said NASA president at Stand Up to Kenney press conference
Elizabeth Johannson, NASA president, painted a grim picture of the future of post-secondary education under the Kenney government.
“This government is also imposing unprecedented cuts that will turn our world-class universities, colleges, and technical institutions into shadows of their former selves,” she said.
“The University [of Alberta] is left scrambling to respond to deeper and faster cuts than any post-secondary institution in the world has faced.”
Highlighting how the provincial government has already cut one-third of the University’s previous funding, Johannson also mentioned how over 1,000 workers will be laid off as a result.
Johannson also placed the context of the cuts within current social issues like the pandemic, suggesting that the government’s cuts to university funding are preventing the university from finding solutions.
“At a time where we should all be focused on supporting our students during the shift to online learning and our researchers should be focused on finding solutions to COVID-19 and the coming energy transition, we are instead grappling with massive cuts and restructuring plans with impossible deadlines,” she said.
“These are not the actions of a responsible government trying to provide certainty and support for citizens in these historically difficult times.”