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The Alberta government’s March 11th announcement of a massive restructuring of the province’s health care management heralds a new assault on medicare in the province.

Bill 27 completely rearrange the system of regional health authorities in the province.

A major part of the restructuring program will involve reducing the number of bargaining certificates from 400 to 36.

The health authorities have been pushing for the labour law changes so that they can implement the recommendations of the Mazankowski Report, which include more privatization, commercialization and de-listing of services.

One of Mazankowski’s other recommendations was that someone be appointed to remove “barriers to reform” such as the terms and conditions of collective agreements.

The legislation also gives new powers to the provincial labour board chair to change collective agreements.

Despite all the pomp and ceremony surrounding the announcement, very little is known about how the Bill will actually make these changes happen, said CUPE Alberta President Yvonne Fast. Most of the changes will be outlined in regulations, which haven’t been written.

“The real issue behind the screen of stream-lining bargaining and cutting administrative time and money is the rights of health care workers,” Fast said. “Severance, successor rights, job security rights, benefits and pensions. Rights that ensure these jobs are family supporting jobs, good for the economy of Alberta. These same rights stand in the way of health care privatization.”

“When you put it all together it sure looks like more health care privatization is on the way,” she said. “For that, every Albertan will pay a high price. But, the first people to pay the price will be the health care workers who deliver high quality, accessible public health care.”