EDMONTON – “Cowardly, cold-hearted, dishonest and irresponsible.”
That’s how the president of the Alberta Federation of Labour describes the decision by the Kenney government to cut more than 20,000 jobs in K-12 education in the midst of an unprecedented health crisis and economic recession.
“It’s cowardly because they did their dirty work on a weekend when families were not paying attention and when they knew the affected workers would have less time to respond,” says AFL president, Gil McGowan.
“It’s cold-hearted and dishonest because, as recently as yesterday, the Minister of Education explicitly told the union representing K-12 support workers that school boards would get their full funding allotment for the balance of the school year. And it’s irresponsible because throwing thousands and thousands of public-sector employees out of work at the same time that thousands and thousands of private sector workers have lost their jobs will have the effect of turning the economic recession that is now gripping our province into a full-blown depression.”
McGowan says that literally no other jurisdiction in the industrial world is taking these kinds of steps.
“The Kenney government says these workers can now apply for Employment Insurance or the newly created Canadian Emergency Relief Fund. But, in most cases, that will mean a huge drop in income for thousands of Alberta households. This is happening because the UCP decided to break its promise and because they’ve decided that pursuing their ideological agenda of reducing spending is more important that helping Albertans through a crisis.”
What makes this decision even worse, says McGowan, is that it is not the only one of its kind currently being made by the Kenney government.
“In the past week, while the rest of the world has been trying to find ways to keep income flowing into households, the UCP has been telling universities and colleges that they need to proceed with thousands of layoffs. And now they’re telling school boards to do they same, on an even greater scale.
“Yes, Alberta is facing an unprecedented crisis. But we have one of the best balance sheets not only in the country, but in the entire world. As a result, if there is any place that could afford to help its citizens through tough times, it’s Alberta. The fact that the UCP has chosen to set thousands of its citizens adrift at this moment reveals some very ugly truths about who they really are.”
McGowan says the AFL will work with the Canadian Union of Public Employees and other unions representing K-12 workers to discourage the government from proceeding with this plan.
“First they started a war with the doctors. Then it was a war with universities and colleges. Now it’s a war with education workers. This kind of governance never made sense, even in normal times. But it’s completely outrageous and unacceptable during a time of crisis, like the one we’re currently living through. This simply cannot be allowed to stand.”
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