The government’s inaction to date amounts to willful negligence
EDMONTON - The leaders of Alberta’s largest unions and worker groups are calling for temporary circuit-breaker measurers to protect the health and safety of workers and students and to save our health care system from imminent collapse.
In a joint statement, union leaders representing nearly 350,000 working Albertans in both the public and private sectors say they’re making this call “reluctantly and with great frustration.” But they say it must be done because “the pandemic in Alberta is out of control; workplaces and schools are unsafe; and our health care system and our health care workers are already being overwhelmed.”
The union leaders say these kinds of measures could have been avoided if the Kenney government had listened to the World Health Organization early in December when it said that vaccine-only strategies would not be sufficient to deal with the highly-transmissible Omicron variant.
“Sadly, as the result of the Kenney government’s refusal to even consider scientifically-supported mitigation measures to reduce transmission in indoor environments … the opportunity to get ahead of the fifth wave has been lost. As a result, we are now left with a circuit-breaker as the only possible tool to deal with the relentless and unbending math of the virus’ exponential growth.”
The statement goes on to list eleven other steps the government should take including mandating the use of higher quality N-95 or KN-95 masks; committing to and investing in air filtration; introducing standards to better regulate indoor air quality; re-instating Test-Trace-Isolate policies; reversing policies that allow employers to ignore isolation rules; and introducing paid sick leave for all workers.
The union leaders conclude with the following direct appeal to Premier Kenney and members of his UCP government:
“Workers, students, seniors and all other Albertans are facing unacceptable levels of risk as a result of the unchecked Omicron wave. We are also facing the prospect of the imminent collapse of our provincial health care system. Even if your only concern is the economy, the reality is that you can’t run a healthy economy without healthy workers and confident consumers – and you won’t have either of these until this wave of the pandemic is brought under control. That’s why we are collectively calling for the immediate introduction of circuit-breaker measures, plus the implementation of the ten other policies we’ve outlined above. It’s too late to avoid the fifth wave; but it’s not too late to save lives and protect our health care system and our economy.”
The statement is signed by Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL); Guy Smith, president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE); Heather Smith, president of the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA); Jason Schilling, president of the Alberta Teachers Association (ATA); Mike Parker, president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA); Rory Gill, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Alberta Division (CUPE Alberta); Tom Hesse, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 (UFCW 401); Jillian Pratt, president, Non-Academic Staff Association (NASA); Ken Heather, president, Alberta College and Institutes Faculty Association (ACIFA); Gavin McGarrigle, Western Regional Director, Unifor
Director of Communications, AFL