Alberta unions give workers tools to blow the whistle on employers who aren’t taking COVID-19 seriously enough

ReturnSafe.ca campaign urges workers to know their rights and speak out against unsafe practices as the economy re-opens

EDMONTON - As Jason Kenney announces plans to ramp up re-launching of the provincial economy, the Alberta Federation of Labour has launched a new on-line campaign aimed at giving workers the tools and knowledge they need to blow the whistle on employers who aren’t taking COVID-19 seriously enough.

Called ReturnSafe.ca, the campaign includes a “guidance for workers” document and webpage which outlines the things employers should be doing to keep workers safe in the context of COVID-19. It also explains the legal rights that all workers have to a safe workplace and details the process workers can follow when their employers are not properly implementing or enforcing COVID-19 safety guidelines.

The campaign also includes a ReturnSafe.ca whistleblower website where workers can tell their stories about what they’re seeing as they return to work.

The goal of both the worker guidance document and the whistleblower website is to empower working Albertans, and give them the knowledge and confidence they need to stand up for themselves and push back against employers who are not taking COVID-19-related safety measures as seriously as they should.

“People are anxious and unsure of what to do to keep themselves safe and they may not know about their rights as workers,” says Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan. “Our campaign aims to give them the tools they need. We may have flattened the curve for the time being, but the virus is still out there and there is a real threat of a second wave. It’s important that Alberta workers understand that their employers have a legal obligation to ensure that the work environment is safe and healthy and that workers have workplace health and safety rights enshrined in Alberta’s OHS Act.”

The guidance for workers webpage and document summarizes the four key health and safety rights that all workers have, including the right to refuse unsafe work; it provides a list of things employers should be doing to keep workers safe during COVID-19; and explains how workers can go about demanding safer work conditions and exercising their right to refuse unsafe work.

The ReturnSafe.ca website will give workers experiencing unsafe working conditions a place to tell their stories, anonymously, if they so choose.

“It’s important to share stories about what’s happening in Alberta workplaces with the public and the media so that employers and governments feel pressure to follow and enforce the rules in order to keep people safe,” says McGowan. “The AFL is ready to fight for workers, but we need to know what they are going through. That’s why we’re asking people to visit the ReturnSafe.ca website and tell their stories about what they’re seeing at work. Vigilance in both the workplace and the community is the key to keeping people safe and avoiding a second wave.”

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