Alberta Federation of Labour Statement on Gender Equality
This week we celebrate gender equality.
We know that gender equality is largely achieved when all people, including women and gender-fluid and diverse folks, have access to opportunities. This gender equality week we want to highlight the importance of having access to opportunities such as good quality jobs.
Unfortunately, for decades women in Alberta have been left behind and COVID-19 has made this situation worse than before. Before the global pandemic, Alberta stood out in Canada as having the largest gender income gap in Canada. Women are also more likely to be faced with a second shift of unpaid work when they were home, as they continue to do a disproportion amount of household work.
Now, COVID-19 has made the situation with gender equality in Alberta worse. The majority of jobs lost in Alberta because of COVID-19 have been in the private service sector that are dominated by women, such as grocery store and hospitality workers. In recent months, men have outpaced women for job gains when it comes to recovering from COVID-19. The majority of front-line workers who we have relied on during this global pandemic have also been women, such as front-line health care workers, grocery store workers, and those providing family and community services.
And where has the United Conservative Party (UCP) been during all of this?
They have been missing in action.
There has been no gender-based lens for economic recovery in Alberta. The UCP have not acknowledged the heavy weight that women and gender-diverse folks in Alberta are currently carrying, nor the weight they have historically carried. Instead, the UCP has been focused on rolling back occupational health and safety measures, limiting coverage for workplace injuries, privatizing Alberta’s parks, limiting public opposition to their legislation, and further cutting overtime pay for workers in Alberta.
Instead of creating jobs, the UCP has cut funding which forced the layoff of about 26,000 public education workers in March, once again a sector dominated by women. And by all accounts, more public sector layoffs are expected in the coming months and years.
The UCP has allowed the child care sector in Alberta to flounder – a sector that is a key investment for gender equality and has an amazing return on investment for governments. The UCP cancelled the $25/day child care pilot program and cut a number of funding programs for child care providers and parents. Some families no longer have access to child care services because the UCP has done little to help child care providers stay afloat during this time. Minister of Children Services, Rebecca Schulz, went as far as to acknowledge the issue, but suggested that some families will no longer need childcare as they will simply not have a job so it was fine for child care providers to permanently close.
The Federal Government has continued to invest in Alberta through different funding initiatives including $262 million for safe school reopening and $70 million for childcare providers (which is on top of the $45 million invested in Alberta child care back in July).
Frankly, it is disappointing to see the UCP’s inability to be true leaders during this crisis and instead wait for other levels of governments to step up with needed programs, resources, and necessary decisions.
So, on this week, we celebrate what gains have been made for gender equality and evaluate the work that still needs to be done. Albertans, especially women and gender diverse folks, need true leadership from our provincial politicians, and the real question is how much longer do we have to wait?