AUPE request to suspend job cuts during crisis rejected
EDMONTON – Stating tomorrow (Tuesday, March 31) the Government of Alberta (GOA) will move ahead with plans to axe the jobs of public-sector workers providing vital services in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and oil-price collapse.
“Just when Albertans are facing unbelievable financial stress and are turning to their government for assistance, they’re going to find that those support systems are being threatened,” says Guy Smith, president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), which represents more than 95,000 workers, including about 23,000 government employees.
“Faced with the double whammy of the pandemic and turmoil in the oil industry, it should be all hands on deck. Unfortunately, Premier Jason Kenney has chosen to throw Albertans overboard instead.”
These job cuts will be permanent as part of the government’s vague restructuring plans, not temporary like the more than 20,000 school cuts announced on Saturday.
AUPE asked the government to suspend bargaining on a new collective agreement and to extend job protection during the crisis. The union reached similar agreements with Alberta Health Services (AHS), Covenant Health and Capital Care deferring matters to the end of May.
“The government said it would delay bargaining, but not job cuts. Those cuts will begin this week. Some workers in Agriculture and Forestry are being asked to come to their worksites this week just to be told they are losing their jobs.”
Last year, the government said it planned to cut the public sector by 7.7 per cent, which could lead to the loss of 16,000 jobs over four years in GOA, Boards and Agencies, Post-Secondary and AHS. Budget 2020 said that 1,436 full-time equivalent jobs would be cut this year. Some temporary workers have already been let go. Now the axe will fall on permanent workers.
“As reckless as those cuts would have been in normal times, they would be devastating in these unprecedented and dangerous times of crisis,” says Smith.
AUPE members include social workers supporting at-risk children and other vulnerable Albertans; Service Alberta staff helping people get access to income supports; Agriculture and Forestry workers preparing for fire season; Courts workers still dealing with the public face to face; peace officers and correctional peace officers keeping us safe; and many more.
“These workers are on the front lines of fighting COVID-19 and the economic collapse. Many of them go to worksites every day and expose themselves to danger. Now they are being told their reward may be unemployment,” says Smith.
“Albertans are hurting like they have never hurt before. They need stability now. Throwing more Albertans out of work is senseless.”
Tomorrow (Tuesday, March 31), AUPE will release a list of employers who are responding well to the crisis and employers who are failing Albertans.
“Albertans have a right to know who is helping and who is hindering the fight against COVID-19. Clearly, the Government of Alberta tops the list of bad employers, but there are employers doing the right thing. We need to acknowledge both.”
AUPE president Guy Smith is available for interviews.
Please contact Terry Inigo-Jones, Communications, 403-831-4394.