One year after the strike at Devonshire Care Centre

When the Registered Nurses at Edmonton’s privately owned, for-profit Devonshire Care Centre look back at the two-week strike that started on New Year’s Eve 2012, they still shake their heads at the powerful support they received from other nurses and unions.

The small group of nurses at the private, for-profit nursing home knew they were doing the right thing when they joined UNA, RN Careen Matias recalled soon after the strike ended, but they expected to be lonely, cold and bored on the picket line.

“It was scary,” recalled RN Nerlyn Camat. “It was New Year’s Eve and we hadn’t met UNA members before … and it was freezing cold.

But that’s not the way it played out for the small group of 15 nurses at the South Edmonton continuing-care facility owned by Park Place Seniors Living Inc. of Vancouver, who by the fall of 2012 had concluded they had few options left but to go on strike to get a fair first contract

“We went out of our job and to see these people from UNA, and other support, it was a great feeling that we weren’t alone,” Camat said.

Now the experience of the members of Local 417 is recorded on a moving video created by UNA videographer Jeremy Rittwage.

The 15-minute video shows footage from the strike and many interviews with the strikers that illustrate their strength, and also their gratitude for the support received from UNA and other unions.

In the end, the strike by the Devonshire nurses and the first collective agreement they won became an important victory for every Registered Nurse in Alberta, said UNA President Heather Smith, who spent part of almost every day during the strike on the picket line.

“Next time we bargain, your employer will know that the nurses at Devonshire are as force to be reckoned with,” said Smith in the video’s footage.

“We were only, as they say in the newspaper, a handful,” said RN Helen Lichtner. “But we showed that a handful could be heard!”


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