UCP misled Albertans on PAID sick leave, causing more confusion for workers and employers during a crisis

Everything has been shutting down and STILL no one knows if or how they're getting paid

Statement from Gil McGowan, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour

For Immediate Release
March 17, 2020

EDMONTON“As we work to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic, Albertans are being asked not to come to work if they are sick, and to self-isolate if they recently returned to Canada or are experiencing symptoms. We know that many of those people can't afford not to work. Many are living paycheque to paycheque and are worried about how they will pay their bills, their rent or their mortgage.

If we want Albertans to follow the advice of public health officials and stay home when their sick, they need to know that they will still be paid.

Last week, the UCP government seemed to recognize this issue and made a widely shared public promise to implement 14 days of PAID sick leave for workers who need to self-isolate or be quarantined, to be accomplished through changes to the provincial Employment Standards. However, yesterday we learned this was not actually true. Instead, Albertans will only see support for paid sick leave if the federal government makes good on its commitments to expand access to Employment Insurance – commitments which have not yet been explained or defined.

Claiming credit for something that the federal government is going to do is tacky. And making promises that you have no intention of keeping is inappropriate – especially during times of great anxiety.

We've heard stories of workers trying to access the leave that they thought had been promised. We’ve heard stories about employers calling trying to find out what the new rules are. And we know that, in the absence of clarity about income supports, people are still going to work sick. The UCP added to the chaos and confusion by lying; letting that lie linger for days; and then, yesterday, trying to weasel out of their promise without actually admitting that they had misled people. The UCP should own up to their mistake and fix it.

Albertans deserve financial support and clear information now. Any further confusion or uncertainty puts all of us at risk.

The financial impact of COVID-19 for many working Albertans will be severe. The steep collapse in the price of oil is already impacting many Albertans. Arts, music, sporting and cultural events have been cancelled. Airlines, hotels and tourism are taking a big hit and considering mass lay-offs. Civic facilities are shut down, and our schools, universities and childcare centres are now closed, meaning thousands of people are now staying home with their kids.

Now is a time for Jason Kenney to step up and provide real leadership. It is time for him abandon passing his austerity budget with harmful cuts to health care. It is time for him to put aside his fight with the doctors. It is time for him to provide clarity around paid sick leave and meaningful financial support for Albertans. Anything less is unacceptable. Any further delay is too long.”

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MEDIA CONTACT:
Gil McGowan
President, AFL
Email: gmcgowan@afl.org
Call: 780-218-9888