RED DEER – After enduring months of financial hardship and pandemic stress, the frontline workers at Red Deer’s publicly-run home for persons with developmental disabilities (PDD) are celebrating one small victory as a result of a policy-grievance arbitration decision.
Today (April 30), the arbitrator determined that the Government of Alberta (GOA) violated its own single-site order by implementing the measure in an unfair, unilateral and unreasonable manner. The GOA’s actions starved up to 90 Michener staff of thousands of dollars in income, each. Now the employer must consult with staff and their union, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), to negotiate appropriate compensation and a reasonable process for mitigating the financial burden on employees. The single-site order will remain in place.
“This is a big win for vulnerable workers everywhere who love providing compassionate care, but don’t make enough money doing it and have to stretch themselves thin across multiple jobs, just to feed their families,” says AUPE Vice-President Bonnie Gostola.
On Aug. 24 2020, the union filed a policy grievance against the GOA. Staff had bravely spoken up, saying the employer strong-armed them into selecting the Michener as their sole job during the pandemic but didn’t replace their lost hours with regular and overtime hours, as per the Single-Site Order.
“The whole purpose of the Order was to protect the sick, the disabled and their caregivers from the devastating financial and health effects of COVID,” adds Gostola, “But at Michener, the UCP weaponized it to reduce the income of frontline heroes. They exploited their power as politicians, at the cost of the care system that Albertans living with disabilities depend on. It’s hypocritical and shameful.”
Some members had to defer mortgage payments. Others had to borrow money from family, deplete their life savings or access emergency AUPE benefits. Many more had to bear the stress alone and push through the toughest parts of the pandemic, while protecting vulnerable people from the health crisis.
“Thanks to members telling their stories, justice was served today at the ALRB,” says Gostola. “We’ve set a precedent and proved our PDD members are just as critical as frontline healthcare staff. They should get the same protections, including the vaccine!”
She adds that this is the second victory this year for Alberta’s PDD staff and residents, who saved multiple group homes from the UCP’s cruel privatization plan after launching a tough 7-month campaign. The push to protect PDD continues and this week, AUPE will contact Michener to talk lost wages and solutions for the suffering members endured.
For more information:
Celia Shea, Communications 780-720-8122