Workers must be protected if jobs at multiple care sites banned
EDMONTON – Alberta needs to find a way to keep people safe from COVID-19 without punishing health-care heroes who are risking their lives, says the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE).
“The Albertans keeping our elders and loved ones healthy in continuing-care homes often work two or three jobs because they have to, just to make ends meet. That’s because the patchwork of private employers have created a staffing issue where multiple jobs are needed for workers to feed families and put a roof over their heads,” says Mike Dempsey, vice-president of AUPE, which represents more than 95,000 workers, half of whom work in health care.
“The majority of these workers are women, and many are people of colour and immigrants. Their contribution to their household incomes is critical. Banning them from working at more than one site means they risk losing a large portion of their income now, just when their families, like all Alberta families, are struggling. Many also risk losing their second or third job permanently,” says Dempsey.
“We need to find a solution to this issue without making health-care workers suffer. You don’t send your firefighters into a blaze and slash their pay once they have started fighting the flames. Albertans won’t support that kind of injustice.”
Yesterday, as a response to the COVID-19 threat in private care homes, the B.C. government said it is taking over as the employer of all people working in long-term care, hiring them full time and paying them standardized wages at the same rate as unionized public-sector workers.
“If the Alberta government can find billions of dollars to subsidize a crude-oil pipeline, it can find a way to keep continuing-care residents safe and avoid slashing the pay of Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), Health Care Aides (HCAs), food-service, housekeeping and maintenance workers. B.C. has just pulled it off – why can’t we do the same here right away before this crisis gets worse?
“AUPE members do this job because they care. They tell us the residents they work with are like family. This chaos is the result of having private operators in place that have a profit motive. Continuing care is health care. It should be publicly funded and delivered to ensure standards are universally applied. Instead we have private employers making calls that don’t look at the whole picture of workers and long term under-staffing issues,” says Dempsey.
“The wages in continuing care are modest, the hours long and the shift work difficult. These workers will do what is best for residents. We understand that cross-contamination is a valid concern and action must be taken. We’re asking that Alberta takes care of the workers, too. The best way to do that is to follow the B.C. example to take staffing and regulation out of private employers and into Alberta’s public health-care system.”
AUPE is calling for a guarantee to protect the income of continuing-care workers’ now and their jobs after the pandemic is over. “Albertans do not want these workers to defeat COVID-19 only to find they’ve lost jobs when the pandemic has passed.”
AUPE vice-president Mike Dempsey is available for interviews.
Please contact Terry Inigo-Jones, Communications, 403-831-4394