Now more than ever, nurses need to act in their workplaces and outside them, United Nurses of Alberta President Heather Smith told more than 850 delegates, observers, guests, media and others at the opening of the union’s 36th Annual General Meeting this morning.
The meeting started late when heavy snow throughout Alberta delayed some delegates, but that hardly dampened the response of delegates to Smith’s remarks, which picked up on the official theme of the 2013 AGM.
UNA’s executive came up with the theme after “extensive focus grouping,” Smith said – “well, after we put on a flip chart all the issues that we are experiencing as an organization.”
Those issues, she noted, include: “Workforce transformation, scheduling optimization, unprecedented rollbacks at our provincial bargaining table, anti-union legislation, position eliminations, substitution with health care aides, overcapacity, Alberta Health Services’ revolving door … And don’t forget unnecessary and regressive pension changes to be unilaterally imposed by the Redford Government.”
“We could have said ‘It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world,’ because it is,” Smith said. “But we opted for “Now More than Ever”… because now more than ever we need to act.”
Among the many points she listed needing action from Registered Nurses, Registered Psychiatric Nurses and others were the following:
- To assert that we are professionals and we provide a valuable contribution to the wellbeing of Albertans
- To assert our presence, and not let our profession “disappear” To raise Professional Responsibility Concerns and occupational health and safety concerns to protect patient our patients, residents, clients and ourselves
- To stand with our part-time colleagues and defend their right to protected days of rest
- To defend keeping an RN or RPN in charge … and extend that protection to long-term care and community environments
- To oppose the attack on the Local Authorities Pension Plan, and demand retirement security for all Albertans
- To fend off anti-union rhetoric and regressive legislation
- To get our professional associations, the College and Association of Registered Nurses, the College of Registered Psychiatric Nurses, to support us and our efforts to defend our profession and patient, resident, client safety
- To wear white as a symbol of our commitment to our profession and solidarity within UNA
- To be prepared to be there for those who find themselves in peril through no fault of their own … “whether it’s in flood water in Calgary or battered by a typhoon in the Philippines”
In conclusion, Smith thanked delegates for granting her the privilege of representing nurses in Alberta during the past year. Quoting Eleanor Roosevelt – who said “a woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water” – Smith amended that to “nurse.”
“Well the heat is on high and it’s hard to imagine the temperature of the water rising above the current unhealthy level,” she declared. “This is a call to action! Now more than ever, we need to be strong. We need to be United Nurses!”
She received a standing ovation for that closing. Smith’s remarks were followed by a short video on last year’s New Year’s Eve strike at the Devonshire Care Centre in Edmonton, and the 15 brave nurses who won a fair collective agreement after two weeks on the picket line.