U of A campus & Livestream • November 17–19, 2023
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Concurrent session

Austerity in Alberta: Workers Under the Right


November 16, 2019 at 2:30pm - 3:45pm


Engineering Teaching & Learning Complex (ETLC), University of Alberta
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with Alison McIntosh and Jason Foster

Long-term Austerity and Long-term Care Work

Front-line health and social services are vital institutions for most Albertans, yet they bear the brunt of austerity budgeting. While limited budgets and forced competition between service providers has clear impacts for the general public who are using services like public schools, social assistance, harm reduction sites, and long-term care, neoliberal policymaking also shapes front-line work in these environments. This presentation draws on preliminary research investigating the realities of long-term care work in Alberta to outline how the long arc of neoliberal policymaking lead to the eroded budgets and poor working conditions currently experienced by workers and care sites. I then examine possible responses to these challenges, including from labour unions, service users, and policymakers.

Alison McIntosh is a research manager at Parkland Institute. She has a BA in Human Geography from the University of Alberta, and a MA in Geography from Simon Fraser University. Her research focuses on health and social policy, including basic income, long-term care, and harm reduction.

What Was Old Is New Again (Sort of): Public Sector Labour Relations under the UCP

The four years of the Rachel Notley government were marked by a noticeable change in relations between the Alberta government and its public sector unions. The normally frosty dynamic experienced a thaw, to a degree. The new UCP government has quickly signaled a return to a more frigid environment, one reminiscent of previous conservative governments, including threats of cutbacks, wage rollbacks, and privatization. Except, the economic, political, and legal landscape has changed. These changes will play a role in determining what will and won’t happen in the coming years. This presentation examines where Alberta public sector labour relations have been and explores where it might go in the coming years.

Jason Foster is associate professor of Human Resources and Labour Relations at Athabasca University. He is the author of Defying Expectations: The Case of UFCW Local 401 and co-author of Health and Safety in Canadian Workplaces. Previously he was the director of policy analysis at the Alberta Federation of Labour and most recently served as the director of policy for former Alberta premier Rachel Notley.