On behalf of Alberta workers, AFL president demands to see the evidence used to justify UCP’s reckless 5-day isolation policy
EDMONTON - The president of Alberta’s largest worker advocacy organization, the Alberta Federation of Labour, says the UCP’s decision to reduce the COVID isolation period from 10 to 5 days is “reckless, irresponsible and bound to backfire.”
“It’s reckless and irresponsible because it means many workers are going to be forced back to work while still infectious,” says AFL president Gil McGowan. “Even the CDC in the US admits that 40 per cent of double-vaxxed people who get breakthrough infections continue to be infectious after five days. That’s a lot of people. And it’s bound to backfire because those infectious people are going to end up infecting their co-workers, customers and clients.”
McGowan points out that, by the government’s own admission, this new isolation policy is aimed at keeping the economy open. “But if it just leads to more infections, it will have the opposite effect,” he says. “It’ll make this wave of the pandemic last even longer.”
While several other jurisdictions have recently amended their isolation rules, McGowan says the UCP approach is even worse because they’ve introduced a loophole that will allow employers to ignore even the inadequate 5-day period.
In her news conference earlier today, Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw said some employers will be allowed to call COVID-positive employees back to work before the 5-day isolation period – even if they continue to by symptomatic – if those workers are required to provide an essential service.
When asked to define what would constitute an essential service, Hinshaw gave the example of people working in a water treatment facility – but added that it would be left up to the discretion of the employer.
“This is just nuts,” says McGowan. “We saw in previous waves of the pandemic that all sorts of employers defined themselves as providing essential services. If we leave it up to the discretion of employers, for many workplaces we’ll essentially have no mandatory isolation periods at all. So, while other jurisdictions are moving to protect their citizens from Omicron, our leaders are basically saying ‘let it rip through the population.’ This is outrageous and unacceptable.”
Given the huge and potentially negative impacts this new policy will have, McGowan says Alberta workers deserve to see the scientific evidence that Hinshaw claims she’s basing her decision upon – and they deserve to see that evidence now, not a month or two from now.
“Based on their dubious track record so far in the pandemic, very few Albertans trust either Kenney or Hinshaw,” says McGowan. “So, pardon me for not taking them at their word. We demand to see the evidence.”
McGowan is also demanding that Hinshaw and the UCP provide details about which employers will and won’t be allowed to use the “essential service loophole.”
“The UCP sacrificed workers on the altar of UCP politics and ideology in previous waves of the pandemic. We won’t stand idly by while they try to do it again.”
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