Workers demand mandatory paid sick leave as Alberta breaks record for COVID-19 deaths

McGowan will be available to talk to media outside the Legislature today

EDMONTON – The President of Alberta’s largest worker advocacy group says he’s had it with Premier Kenney and Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw’s toothless exhortations to Albertans to stay home when they’re sick.

“Of course, people should stay home when they’re sick to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. But that’s easier said than done for many workers,” says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.

“The reality is that only about 30 per cent of working Albertans have paid sick leave. And many can’t work from home. That means many Albertans don’t get paid if they stay home. These people, especially those with precarious employment and lower incomes, often feel they have no choice but to go to work, even if they’re not feeling well. This is borne out by the government’s own numbers which show that 10 percent of people with active cases of COVID-19 are going to work. The number of people who go to work when they should be isolating is almost certainly even higher. If Premier Kenney is going to continue resisting urgent and sensible calls for a lockdown, then we need mandatory paid sick leave to ensure that workers can actually heed the advice of public health officials and stay home when they’re sick.”

McGowan says the spike in COVID-19 cases and the new record for COVID-19 deaths should serve as a wake-up call for the government.

“If this government is serious about getting the virus under control, then they have to start getting serious about mandatory paid sick leave and other policies to support Albertans as they isolate. All the experts say the key to beating this thing is ‘test, trace and isolate.’ But we’ll never get the isolation part right until we make it easier for everyone to actually stay home without fear of being unable to put food on their tables or pay their rent or mortgage. Lack of support for the isolation piece of our provincial COVID-19 strategy is our Achilles heel. Mandatory paid sick leave would help address that weakness.”

AVAILABILITY NOTICE: McGowan will be available outside the Legislature at 3:15 p.m. today to answer questions from reporters.

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MEDIA CONTACT:
Ramona Franson
Director of Communications, AFL
rfranson@afl.org