COLUMN: Gunter – Who benefits? Probably the public sector unions

- July 30th, 2012

Is it about seniors, or workers?

by Lorne Gunter

Perhaps you’ve seen them, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees’ (AUPE) ads claiming that three operators of seniors homes in the province are “lining their pockets” with “millions” of tax dollars intended for seniors benefits. If not, you can see them at the AUPE’s special website, stoptheripoff.ca.

In the ads, plaintive seniors claim Park Place Seniors Living, Triple A Living Communities and Revera Inc. are diverting tax dollars that should be going to seniors care to make – gasp! – profits. From the actors’ tone and expressions, you’d think the trio of companies was subjecting residents to forced labour (Knit those flammable baby clothes faster, Granny!), rations of gruel and daily floggings.

The scripts, which talk about benefits going missing, leave the impression that residents must be going without medication, meals and bed changes.

But the ads are misleading at best and, at worst, disingenuous.

What proof does the 80,000-member civil service union have that the three companies are pocketing millions intended for seniors? Only that all three pay the licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and health care aides they employ, wages that are “below industry standards.”

Shock! Horror!

In the case of “rip-off artist, Al Jina,” a Vancouver lawyer “who owns 15 facilities in Alberta and B.C. through his private-for-profit company, Park Place Seniors Living,” the AUPE claims that Alberta Health Services funds Jina’s facilities to the tune of $58,218 a year per LPN on staff, yet he pays just $52,027. That leaves a “rip-off” of $6,191.

The AUPE levels similar charges against the other two alleged “rip-off artists,” Arif Amlani, a Calgary chartered accountant who owns Monterey Place and Millrise Place in Calgary, through his company Triple A Living Communities, and Jeff Lozon, CEO of Revera Inc., which operates more than 250 facilities across Canada and the U.S.

But if there is a rip-off going on here, it is of taxpayers, rather than of seniors.

Behind its ad campaign, the AUPE is not asking for the province to step in and make the three companies pay for more recreational outings for seniors or better meals or more comfortable bedding – things that might rightly be called seniors’ “benefits.” Rather, the purpose of the union’s attack ads is to get Premier Alison Redford and Health Minister Fred Horne to intervene to raise the pay of health workers at the trio’s homes.

Not coincidentally, the AUPE has been striking Park Place’s Hardisty Care Centre in the city since May seeking a first contract for the facility’s LPNs and aides. That walkout was settled just this week, undoubtedly thanks in part to the aggressive and misleading ads.

The online portion of the campaign is full of old-fashioned leftist rhetoric. For instance, it calls Revera a “multinational corporation” – a phrase that fell out of fashion a quarter-century ago and lost its sting even before that.

Does the AUPE offer any evidence that its three targets are actually taking benefits away from seniors? No. The best the union can come up with is the claim that when employers pay their workers less than the industry standard, they are also often guilty of cutting corners in other areas, too.

But if the AUPE were to get its way and the workers at the three companies’ senior residences were to suddenly be paid the same as workers at unionized facilities, would seniors get more benefits? Of course not.

The only thing that would change is that tax dollars would be going to workers (and their union) rather than to entrepreneurs. There is no guarantee in that formula that seniors’ lives would be better.

Categories: Contributor Columns

Subscribe to the post

Comments are closed.