EDMONTON - The president of Alberta’s largest worker advocacy organization, the Alberta Federation of Labour, is demanding that the Kenney government add education workers, grocery store workers, group home workers and firefighters to the list of people eligible to begin receiving coronavirus vaccines this week.
On Saturday, Premier Jason Kenney announced that Albertans in category 2C would be able to start booking vaccination appointments starting today, April 12, 2021. This category includes all health care workers and people who work in meatpacking plants – but it does not include people working in many front line, essential occupations.
When asked why essential workers, like education staff and firefighters, still won’t be eligible for vaccination, Kenney said he was, “merely following the science.”
But AFL president Gil McGowan says Kenney is, in fact, ignoring the science and the guidance from experts.
“The guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, is clear,” says McGowan. “It explicitly says that the second wave of vaccinations should include first responders, like police officers and firefighters; staff of congregate living facilities, like group homes; and front-line essential workers who cannot work virtually. The NACI defines frontline workers as anyone having direct close physical contact with the public. That clearly includes all education staff in our schools and people working in grocery stores. It is completely unacceptable that Premier Kenney is ignoring this guidance.”
McGowan says that provinces like Ontario and B.C. have acknowledged that significant transmission of the new COVID-19 variants is happening in workplaces – and that the same thing is clearly happening here in Alberta, even if Premier Kenney won’t admit it.
“The latest figures show that the WCB has accepted more than 6,000 claims related to workplace transmission of COVID-19 in Alberta,” said McGowan.
“That’s not time off to isolate because of a close contact; that’s actual infections. And we’re hearing from our affiliate unions that there have been outbreaks in literally hundreds of workplaces across the province, including grocery stores, factories, warehouses and construction work camps. If vaccination is going to be our province’s only strategy for dealing with third wave, then we need to get the vaccine to the people working in places where they are at greatest risk. That means schools, grocery stores, fire halls, groups homes – and anywhere else that workers are in close physical contact with large numbers of people.”
Director of Communications, AFL