Alberta labour leaders demand that Kenney not stand in the way of paid sick leave for all

UCP must cooperate with the federal government to implement Trudeau’s promise of 10 paid sick days for all Canadians, says AFL

EDMONTONThe following is a statement on paid sick leave from the presidents of 29 public and private sector unions affiliated with the Alberta Federation of Labour:

As labour leaders representing over 170,000 members working in all sectors of Alberta’s economy, we call on Premier Kenney and his UCP government to immediately cooperate with the federal government on the implementation of their paid sick leave promise and to not stand in the way of a policy that is long overdue and so clearly needed by all working Albertans.

Earlier this week Prime Minister Trudeau made a commitment to provide 10 paid sick days to all Canadians. However, workplace law is largely under the jurisdiction of the provinces. That’s why the Prime Minister says his next step is to negotiate with provincial premiers. Trudeau has promised to work with provinces to ensure all working Canadians will have access to 10 paid sick leave days. We demand that Premier Kenney work to make this a permanent reality in Alberta.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on exactly how much paid sick leave for all workers is desperately needed. We know that workers have gone to work sick, often because they simply can’t afford to take the time off.

When people go to work sick they risk getting other people sick – both their coworkers and the public. Increased illness also puts unnecessary strain on workplaces and on our healthcare system that, when these illnesses could have been prevented, if the worker could have just taken the time to get better.

Most people do not want to get others sick by going to work when they are ill, but are often left with no other options because they can’t afford to stay home. Workers are regularly told by government public health officials and doctors to stay home if they are sick but people simply can’t do that if it means bills won’t be paid on time, or food won’t be put on the table. If the government truly wants to have workers stay home when they are sick, then they need to create the policies that enable workers to do so.

Any paid sick leave in Alberta needs to apply to all types of workers regardless of the sector they work in. This includes sectors that have historically been exempt or provided with variances regarding employment legislation such as the construction sector and workers and dependent contractors in precarious “gig” economy work. A paid sick leave policy works best when it applies to every worker.  

Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic the Kenney government acknowledged this issue and the need for paid sick time, boldly promising two weeks of paid sick leave through Employment Standards. Unfortunately, they went on to break that promise to Albertans and implemented unpaid sick leave instead. Now is the time for Premier Kenney to work with the federal government to finally keep their initial promise of paid sick leave and to correct their poor policy decision. 

As we work to reopen our formal economy we must not simply return to things as “normal”. This global pandemic has revealed a number of flaws in our systems. We have the ability to collectively solve these issues together, which is exactly what we should do. We cannot depend on the goodwill of select employers to implement their own paid sick leave programs – for too long we have relied on individual employers and the reality is that some simply do not step up. We have to make paid sick time a provincial standard for all workers in Alberta. It's now up to Premier Kenney to do just that.

The Alberta Federation of Labour

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MEDIA CONTACT:
Ramona Franson
Director of Communications, AFL
rfranson@afl.org