Lessons must be learned so we’re better prepared if we’re hit by a second wave
EDMONTON – The Alberta Federation of Labour today asked the Auditor General of Alberta to investigate the Kenney government’s mishandling of two key COVID-19 policy responses for long-term care facilities.
“Wage supplements and labour-mobility restrictions for long-term care workers were implemented across Canada as responses to the global pandemic, but Alberta stands out among provinces for their delays and bungling,” says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL).
“We ask the Auditor General for a complete investigation. Our fear is that these delays unnecessarily exposed staff, residents, and their families to the COVID-19 virus. And we’re worried that if lessons aren’t learned, more people will be exposed and more lives will be lost if we’re hit by a second wave.”
Wage supplements were meant to address labour shortages in long-term care facilities and labour-mobility restrictions (one-site policy) were meant to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 virus between health-care facilities. However, the AFL found that the implementation of policies was delayed by weeks because original orders were unworkable.
“Both policies were chosen to address labour issues at these facilities. The one-site policy was brought in to stop long-term care workers from working at more than one facility in order to slow or stop the spread of the virus between them. The wage top-up policy was brought in to address absenteeism in private long-term care facilities because of the one-site policy and other factors, such as employers competing for workers by offering higher wages,” writes McGowan.
“Other provinces worked with unions to implement these policies and they were in place relatively smoothly and quickly, but not the Kenney government,” says McGowan, noting that the government of British Columbia implemented its one-site policy more than a month earlier than Alberta and a mere week after announcing it. The Alberta wage supplement policy is still not settled.
“We’re not out of the woods; the COVID-19 virus is still a threat, particularly to workers and residents of long-term care facilities. It’s not a matter if there’s a second wave of infections, it’s a matter of when. This is an urgent matter of public health that needs to be thoroughly examined as soon as possible.”