Contact tracing for infected workers left to untrained managers
EDMONTON – Instead of trained experts, Government of Alberta (GoA) directors and managers will be doing COVID-19 contact tracing for workers who are infected, says the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE).
“This is only one example of the level of chaos we are dealing with as the government attempts to implement measures to prevent the spread of the virus among our members,” says Bonnie Gostola, vice-president of AUPE, which represents more than 90,000 workers, including more than 22,000 direct employees of the government.
“Contact tracing is a vital weapon in the battle against the virus, but this government is not taking this seriously. Maybe that, and Alberta’s failed tracing app, explains why this government is unable to determine the origin of 73 per cent of the cases here.”
Gostola adds: “Instead of using its experts, Alberta Health Services (AHS), is offloading its responsibility to do contact tracing to GoA managers, but the GoA doesn’t even have an approved process on how to implement contact tracing. It is madness.”
Other examples of the confusion caused by government directives to staff include:
- Saying it is introducing a standardized procedure for wearing masks at workplaces, then saying the procedures vary from ministry to ministry, from worksite to worksite and even within worksites;
- Telling workers that masks are required in the workplace, but refusing to agree to supply masks, as it is required to do;
- Failing to involve Workplace Health and Safety Committees, which include front-line workers, when making changes to the hazard-assessment process, as it is required to do; and
- Giving inconsistent and conflicting messages to workers.
“It is clear that this government is utterly lost,” says Gostola. “The employer has learned nothing since we first went into lockdown eight months ago and staff began working remotely and when there was a return to worksites. Our members are saying things are worse now.”
Some GoA sites are refusing to supply masks, some are offering one disposable mask and saying it has to last an entire work day. “One site has masks made by someone’s mother. While we applaud that person’s community spirit, we don’t know if these masks are compliant with what is needed,” says Gostola.
“Our members have performed their duties to the highest standards and provided vital services to Albertans despite all the extra work and pressure brought by the pandemic. The least they can expect from their employer is that it follows the rules and has a clear plan,” she says.
“AUPE members come into direct contact with Albertans at work every day. Failure to create safe workplaces put Albertans in danger. Albertans deserve leadership and clarity. What we have instead is incompetence.”
Bonnie Gostola is available for interviews.
For more information, please contact Terry Inigo-Jones, communications officer, at 403-831-4394.