Front-line workers have always been essential, but underpaid, says AFL
EDMONTON – Alberta unions are applauding Prime Minister Trudeau’s announcement to raise the wages of essential front-line workers who earn minimum wage, but they’re demanding that the Kenney government develop a transparent process for distributing the funds, with input from workers and organized labour.
“The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted that these workers are essential all the time and have always deserved to get paid more than the lowest legally allowed wage,” says AFL president Gil McGowan. “It’s unfortunate it took this crisis for the people to realize this. I’m still not convinced that Premier Kenney and other members of his government actually do. That’s why we can’t simply give them a blank cheque and trust them to distribute the funds without input from workers.”
While details of the agreement between federal and provincial/territorial governments are sparse, Prime Minister Trudeau noted it was designed for minimum-wage workers who deliver essential services, including people working in health care. He also noted that details are being finalized with some provinces, which will be expected to add their own funds.
“The UCP government froze Alberta’s minimum wage at $15 an hour. It also decreased the minimum wage for students by $2, to $13 an hour,” said McGowan. “And it convened a lopsided minimum wage panel dominated by food service employers designed to roll back wages of liquor servers who are predominantly young women with precarious jobs.”
“We wish we could say we trust this government to provide a fair wage increase to minimum-wage workers on the front lines delivering services that are essential, but we cannot. That’s why we ask that the process for granting raises to these workers is transparent. The only way that will happen is if worker representatives are at the table.”
Director of Communications, AFL