Symphony Senior Living is fighting to protect seniors - AUPE is fighting for the right to defend the indefensible

Outrageous AUPE arbitration cases confirm Symphony Senior Living Aspen Ridge resolve to fight for seniors' rights and care

The strike and lockout commenced yesterday at 1pm.  Symphony Senior Living conducts arbitration case research to perform due diligence on the decision to stand firm on the "without cause termination" right being challenged by AUPE.

RED DEER, AB, Jan. 29, 2013 /CNW/ - Symphony Senior Living deliberately did not make a public statement at the commencement of yesterday's strike, alternatively choosing to focus on internal operations and ensuring continuity of quality care.

A significant outstanding article being negotiated relates to discipline and dismissal.  One part of this article is the employer's ability to remove employees deemed inappropriate, unwilling, or uninterested to care for frail seniors or participate as a respectful team member in situations that don't fall within obvious "for cause" incidents or situations that "fall through the cracks".

Symphony Senior Living is unwavering in its commitment to maintaining the high standards it set forth upon acquiring Aspen Ridge in both quality resident care and competitive wage and benefits for its team members.  Symphony's CEO, Lisa Brush, goes on record stating "the Aspen Ridge management and team members are outstanding and I am confident they put our residents first as they have always done.  In the past, strong team members have told us they want and expect us to deal with problem employees, including by removing them from employment where necessary.  Problem employees are not just bad for residents; they are bad for good employees.  I believe our team members are being misled by unwarranted concerns and do not have a full understanding of the long-term ramifications of the issues in this labour dispute. Over the weekend, we worked with AUPE to make substantial progress on many outstanding issues.  We offered very generous wage increases in return for compromise on non-monetary issues.  We were almost able to conclude a package deal, though ultimately that has not happened.  We need to be able to manage our employees to most effectively deal with issues and incidents in a way that is quick, efficient, and effective.  Being tied up in expensive labour arbitrations is not acceptable, and the end result places our residents at risk. We need to be able to address that concern at Aspen Ridge, just as we do at our other residences."

Symphony calls attention to Alberta Health's Seniors' Programs and Services Information Guide 2012-13 published July 2012 [ISBN:  9780778568209.], citing elder abuse is "any action or inaction by self or others that jeopardizes the health or well-being of any other adult.  It is divided into six categories: physical, emotional, financial, sexual, medication abuse, or neglect.  It may include the infliction of physical injury, restraint, exploitation, threats, ridicule, humiliation, forced isolation, or forced change in living arrangements.  It may also include neglect; that is refusal or failure to care for another person whether intentional or unintentional".

Brush cites this document and states, "As the CEO of this company, and beside all of my colleagues, we have a responsibility to be aware of all the intricate situations that can negatively impact our residents and we have a duty to stand firm on caring for our seniors.  Not dealing with problems early creates risks for our business and our residents.  The union approach to 'progressive discipline' can leave these risks in place for far longer than they should be.  We are fine to terminate where appropriate for 'just cause.'  However, not every situation fits nicely into that definition. We need to avoid that restriction which would prevent us from ensuring quality, compassion, and care in those situations that aren't black and white.  We have the ability to terminate without just cause now.  The union wants us to just give it up without offering anything in return."

Symphony Senior Living's legal team provided the following case summaries as historical background that reinforces management's stance as to the remaining unresolved issue:

  • David Thompson Health Region v. AUPE (Johnson) (Re) - October 30, 2009 - Employee was a psychiatric aide who was suspended previously for dragging a patient down a hall by his/her arms and was discharged for engaging in inappropriate touching and sexual abuse.  Union argued that events did not occur and that his 25-year career should essentially give him the benefit of the doubt.

  • Forest Grove Care Centre Ltd. v. AUPE (Alas) (Re) - August 24,2010 - Employee was a personal care aide who played loud music in confined spaces despite agitation of the residents, exposed a naked resident to another resident, and berated his supervisors and co-workers upon firing.  Union argued the employer did not satisfy the burden of just cause and that the actions were inadvertent.

  • Alberta (Sol Gen) v. AUPE (Alleged Sexual Harassment of Co-Worker) (Re) - February 23, 2011 - Employees were correctional officers who picked up a female co-worker, held her down, and undid her pants.  First Griever also made sexual comments to the complainant.  The First Griever was dismissed; the second was reinstated because his actions were secondary in nature.

  • St. Michael's Health Centre v. AUPE (Miller) (Re) - August 11, 2008 - Employee was a personal care attendant who was largely incompetent, abrasive, rude, and aggressive.  Union argued that the conduct of the employee, even if proven, did not warrant her dismissal in the circumstances.

  • Capital Health v. AUPE (08 844037) (Re) - June 3, 2010 - Employee was psychiatric aide who was found to engage in an emotional and sexual relationship with a patient.

  • Alberta Health Services v. AUPE, Local 95 (Gowing-Mahar) (Re) - October 20, 2010 - Employee was a clerk at a public health clinic who was dismissed for a wide range of misconduct including making booking errors, being absent or late, inappropriate and aggressive communication with co-workers, and undermining management.  The Union argued the errors were just mistakes, the absences were medically-related, and the Employer's discipline was for trivial reasons which, in the union's view, was akin to harassment.

Brush concludes, "It is time-consuming and expensive to battle such arbitrations.  Being required to go through such hoops and fight such battles is contrary to the interests of residents and not good for business."

In the event of a termination without cause, the company offered a generous severance package of 3 months' pay in the first year, and then one month for each year of service thereafter, up to 24 months.  This was offered in continuing good faith and to send the message that they care for employees even when a job doesn't work out.

Symphony's purpose is to develop, acquire and manage beautiful senior living communities in North America, where we deliver compassionate dignified care and a full spectrum of supportive services.

SOURCE: Symphony Senior Living

For further information:

Contact: Lisa Brush, CEO
Symphony Senior Living
Mobile: 647-448-4898
Fax: (416) 366-3889

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