Campaign also calls for proper mental health supports for health care workers traumatized by the UCP’s unnecessary fourth wave
EDMONTON – The Alberta Federation of Labour, Alberta’s largest worker advocacy organization, is launching a campaign aimed at pressuring the Kenney government to “learn the lessons of COVID” by introducing 10 days of paid sick leave for all Albertans.
The campaign also calls on the UCP to reverse its cruel and heartless decision to deny presumptive WCB coverage to health care and other workers who suffer psychological injuries like PTSD as a result of trauma at work.
“If the pandemic has taught us nothing else, it’s that asking people to stay home when they’re sick is a meaningless gesture if they can’t actually afford to do so,” says AFL president Gil McGowan.
“Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, essentially acknowledged this reality when she reported that a disturbingly high proportion of people diagnosed with COVID in Alberta continued to go to work while sick, despite rules saying they should stay home. Most of them did not do this out of spite. They did it because they felt they couldn’t afford to lose the income or because they were afraid they might lose their jobs.”
McGowan points out about two-third of working Albertans don’t have access to paid sick leave at work. Young workers, racialized workers and low-wage workers are the least likely to have paid sick leave. This is a big problem, says McGowan, because these are exactly the workers who are most likely to work in public-facing jobs in the service sector.
“All workers need access to paid sick leave,” says McGowan. “But the ones who arguably need it the most are actually the ones who are least likely to have it. If we’re serious about ending the pandemic and never seeing it repeated again, this has to change.”
The federal Liberals have promised to pass a law introducing 10 days of mandatory paid sick leave in all federally-regulated workplaces. But that represents only about 10 per cent of all jobs. The rest fall under provincial rules. That’s why the Alberta Legislature needs to step up, says McGowan.
The AFL campaign also calls on the Kenney government to reverse provisions of their controversial Bill 47, passed last year, that dramatically reduced the number of workers eligible to receive presumptive WCB coverage for PTSD and other psychological injuries brought on by trauma at work.
“The UCP made the fourth wave of the pandemic much worse than it needed to be as a result of their irresponsible ‘Open for Summer’ plan,” says McGowan. “That led to an overwhelmed health care system, which in turn, traumatized thousands of frontline health care workers. These are the people who have been there for all of us throughout the pandemic. But, instead of being there for them in their time of need, the provincial government is making it harder for them to access mental health supports. This is not how we should be treating our frontline heroes. It’s unconscionable. And it needs to change.”
The AFL, with support from its public and private-sector affiliate unions, will spend about $100,000 on the campaign and on Facebook and Instagram ads over the next month urging concerned Albertans to send emails on paid sick leave and mental health support for frontline workers to Premier Jason Kenney and Health Minister Jason Copping.
Director of Communications, AFL